Daring Bakers January 2010 Challenge: Nanaimo Bars

I am known for my…ahem…tardiness. I have historically done a terrible job of predicting how long it will actually take me to complete a task. I also hate to tell my friends that I’m going to be late, so I used to tell them how long it would be until I would *like* to get there (even if I suspected that it might be a bit longer).

For whatever crazy reason that’s changed in the last year or so. I mention this because this is the first month I’ve actually completed my Daring Bakers challenge not only on time, but 3 WEEKS EARLY! (Though I’m posting along with everyone else). It was a lucky coincidence that I would also get the input of a real live Canadian in assessing this month’s dessert, which hails from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.

Nanaimo Bars

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.

These are very, very sweet and rich. They’re best in small pieces…that way you can pop them at intervals instead of getting overwhelmed by big ones! They also freeze well (and I preferred them cold); I wrapped mine individually in plastic wrap, then threw them in the freezer a day before the event and they held up perfectly in transport.

Give yourself a couple of days to make these, since the graham cracker dough needs to refrigerate for a while. You can also cheat and buy graham crackers, but these are really cool to create, so I’d recommend it if you have time and the inclination. I made only a half batch of the crackers and still had leftovers for the Nanaimo Bars, by the way.

For Graham Crackers

2 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose 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
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, 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.
3. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface 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 flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. 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 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 8-12 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster–check early and often, because these can burn quickly.
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 ziploc bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Graham Crackers

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) Graham cracker 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)

Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy cream (or whole milk with a thin pat of butter)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla custard powder (Such as Bird’s)– Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Powdered sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted butter

Directions:
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 (or pudding mix), and powdered sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool to a bit over room temperature (give it maybe 10 minutes). I let mine cool too much and it didn’t spread well! It should still glisten when you pour over the middle layer. Chill until firm, about 20-25 minutes.

Homemade Nanaimo Bars

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One response to “Daring Bakers January 2010 Challenge: Nanaimo Bars

  1. Gorgeous job on my challenge! Everything looks wonderful =D. Congrats on getting it done early!

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