The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.
A very timely choice given the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics, Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert and are named after their apparent birthplace of Nanaimo in British Columbia. As written on www.nanaimo.ca,
"According to local legend about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry not "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies", but "Nanaimo Bars". The entry won a prize, thereby promoting the town as much as her cooking."
Finding the lack of detail in this sweet tale of civic pride a little suspicious, I put my PhD research skills to use and consulted the infallible Wikipedia. It seems that the recipe was not called "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies" because it was in fact called "Mabel's Bars". Perhaps Mabel wasn't quite so enamoured by Nanaimo as the local authorities would have you believe. Sadly, the success of Mabel's sweet creation was ultimately her downfall, as the bars became so popular in the coffee shops of Nanaimo that tourists began to refer to them as Nanaimo Bars, thus foiling her attempts at memorialisation. Despite her daughter's best efforts to promote the name "Mabel's Squares" through publishing the recipe in "The Country Woman's Favorite", the name "Nanaimo Bar" stuck, as surely as one of the delicious treats on the roof of your mouth .
Nanaimo Bars also seem to have the Canada/U.S. equivalent of the Australia/New Zealand Pavlova debate, with some New Yorkers claiming that it originated in New York, referring to them as "New York Slice". Wikipedia debunks this claim by stating that Tim Hortons coffee shops in New York sell them as "Nanaimo Bars", but given that Tim Hortons is a Canadian company I'm not sure they qualify as an independent adjudicator. Now, before we call for King Solomon to come and resolve this dispute, let us again consult www.nanaimo.ca:
"The official Nanaimo Bar recipe was available as a handout as well as on quality tea towel and apron souvenirs."Quality tea towel and apron souvenirs? I'm sorry New York, but unless you've got the recipe printed on snow globes and in a tiny font on quality souvenir spoons, I'm awarding this one to Nanaimo.
Mind you, after trying these bars/slices/squares myself, I'm considering throwing my hat into the ring and calling them Conor's Cubes. I took these into uni and work, and all who tried them loved them. I even got rave reviews from two bona fide Canadians. Whilst making the Graham Crackers takes a bit of work, making the bars themselves is actually quite straightforward, and requires no baking so they're pretty easy to knock up. Given that you can't find Graham Crackers in Australia, I would probably suggest substituting some sort of digestive biscuit if you can't be arsed baking your own.
Thanks Lauren for this month's challenge, although I am a little afraid about the Canadians in my midst now knowing that I am able to make them.
Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
Recipe as given by Lauren, with my notes in purple. Also, note that these are Canadian measurements, so a tablespoon is 15mL whilst an Australian tablespoon is 20mL.
(I only made a half batch of these, and had lots of leftovers for s'mores)
1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
(I couldn't find sorghum flour, try as I might, so I split the sorghum flour weight between the other two flours)
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight. (I got too busy and left mine in the fridge for a couple of days, it was fine)
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster. (I think mine took around 20 minutes)
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs. (I have a perfectly good food processor, but I cannot pass up an opportunity to smash things in the kitchen. I would recommend the smashing option.)
Recipe as given by Lauren, with my notes in purple Also, note that these are Canadian measurements, so a tablespoon is 15mL whilst an Australian tablespoon is 20mL.
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar (I used caster sugar)
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)
(I found that 130 g of shredded coconut is way more than 1 cup, so I measured it out instead of weighing it)
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
(Or, substitute with cornflour and use something else to flavour this layer. I did one version with custard powder, and one version with cornflour, mint essence and green colouring)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate (I used half 70% cocoa choc and half milk choc)
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
(I found this was the most ridiculously tiny amount and ended up doubling this to get good coverage)
1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan. (It can be tricky to get out of the pan, and my first lot that I cut up had to be "sacrificed".. in the bellies of my housemate and I... I'd recommend lining the pan with baking paper to allow for easy removal and slicing. I also chilled this layer in the fridge while I prepared the next one)
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer. (I creamed the butter, cream and icing sugar, then split the mixture into two before adding custard powder to one, and cornflour, mint essence and green colouring to the other. After adding this layer I again chilled the whole thing while preparing the next layer)
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
(As mentioned, I chilled the bars between adding layers, as I thought this would help get a crisp line between them. As I was explaining this process to my housemate, and the importance of the crisp delineation, I realised I sounded decided like Arnold J Rimmer. I then shut my mouth.)
UPDATE: to do the decoration on the top, I piped melted white chocolate across the top of the bars, then used a toothpick to drag lines in a perpendicular direction to the white choc lines. My dragged lines left a lot to be desired in terms of straightness, but I've never claimed to be particularly straight and I figured I was cutting them into little cubes anyway so noone would be the wiser.
- These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer. (These won't last long enough to make it to the freezer. They are too tasty)
- The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. (Alternatively, find a housemate with a hankering for s'mores, negating the need to store them)
- If making the graham crackers with wheat, replace the gluten-free flours (tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, and sorghum flour) with 2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp of all-purpose wheat flour, or wheat pastry flour. Watch the wheat-based graham wafers very closely in the oven, as they bake faster than the gluten-free ones, sometimes only 12 minutes.