Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge: Homemade Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars

This is my second Daring Bakers Challenge and it was an interesting one. (November's challenge, to make cannoli, was my first; I had to skip December's because I just couldn't find the time to make a full-fledged gingerbread house!)

The task this month? First, to make your own homemade graham crackers. The suggestion was to make them gluten free, with the option to use all wheat flour if you preferred to do so; I chose the latter. From there, the mandate was to use the crackers as one ingredient in the preparation of a sweet Canadian classic called Nanaimo Bars.

Why did this month's host, Lauren, pick Nanaimo Bars? Well, she hails from that maple leaf lovin' land, which I might add is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Detroit area. And, what with the Olympics arriving there soon, she felt it would be appropriate to select a home-country treat. (Hey, you guys wanna go to Canada? No problem. Just go get in my red minivan, buckle up, and I'll have you in Windsor, Ontario in a few minutes. Detroit and Windsor--connected by an underwater tunnel and by a bridge--are very old neighbors, you know!)

Anyway, back to business. Below is the official Daring Bakers scoop, direct from the horse's mouth, so to speak, along with the recipes we had to follow. (I substituted unbleached all-purpose flour for all of the gluten free flours, and that worked like a charm.)

*All of the photos in this post are from my own baking experience, while the recipe comes right from the Daring Bakers website; the recipe is printed below just as it appears in that site, with no alteration or interference from Jane--I swear!

* * * * *

"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"

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers


  • 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
  • 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.

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.

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.

Nanaimo Bars


For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated 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)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer

  • 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.)
  • 2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer

  • 4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

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.

2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill."

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

They look wonderful!



Kathy said...

Hi Jane...A lover of graham crackers I am...As a child we used to have graham cracker cereal..who am I kidding...I've had it rescently too! Great challenge! Have a good one!

zita said...

Wow... well done, look very delicious :)

Mary said...

They look great! Just wondering, do you often see them in Detroit? Seeing as it's so close to the border. Maybe at Tim Hortons? I'm definitely going to make the crackers again, but I'm not so sure about the bars.

Jane said...

Many thanks, Rosa!

Hi Kathy--
The graham crackers were my favorite part of this DB challenge. They were easy to make and really, really good. I will be using that recipe in the future. Thanks for visiting again!
-- Jane

Jane said...

Hi Zita-- Thanks so much!

Hi there Mary,
In answer to your question, no. The only place, in fact, that I've ever even heard of Nanaimo bars in the past has been via their mention within baking blogs! I wonder if people in Windsor have them all the time? ;)
Thanks, Jane

Julia @Mélanger said...

Delicious. I love they were a special treat from Canada! Congrats on challenge #2!

Catherine said...

These bars look fantastic Jane!

chef_d said...

yummy looking nanaimo bars!

Allison said...

Hi Jane! Was the whole wheat dough easy to roll out? I went with the gluten-free version and had such a tough time rolling out the dough. Not one of my finer dough-rolling endeavors.

Marie said...

Everything looks fabulous Jane!! xxoo

Memória said...

Great job on this challenge!!! Your bars look perfect!

ap269 said...

They look GREAT!

Anonymous said...

Really pretty, nice work!!!

Junglefrog said...

They sure look delicious!

kellypea said...

Very nice! Mine are chilling right now -- better late than never, maybe? :)

Jane said...

Hi Julia, Catherine, and Chef D --
Thanks so much!

Hi Allison -- I used a lot of flour to roll out the chilled dough and I'm sure if I hadn't it would have been really sticky really fast!

Hello there Marie, Memoria, ap269, KitchenOperas, JungleFrog, and Kellypea-- Much appreciate all those nice comments! K

Kellypea, yes, definitely better late than never! :)


Elra said...

How beautiful Jane, it was fun challenge, wasn't it? Glad you did well with it.

Lucinda said...

Very worthwhile data, thank you for your article.

Lizzy said...

Reminds me of home, eh!...Quick question, the middle layer, the ingredient mentioned 'king' sugar; what kind of sugar is that?
We thoroughly enjoy all of your recipes and will continue do so.Warm wishes for the seaon ;DLiz

Jane said...

Hi Lizzy,
I think that says "icing sugar" for the middle layer, and that means confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar). Thanks very much for visiting!
:) Jane