Daring Bakers_Nanaimo Bars

The new year as always, has been a time of asking questions – both about the past and the future. The main question in my recent past has been why have I not blogged, for what seems like an eternity? The answer is just laziness :(. The question for the present is  – What helped me overcome such a luxury? The answer is The Daring Bakers Challenge. A good challenge is enough to wake anyone out of their reverie, if only to go and hide from the challenge. (Not sure why global leaders don’t seems to do so; if in doubt check out their reactions at Copenhagen) Anyhoo, this month’s challenge was a challenge as I am evading any kind of sweet – we had too much during the holidays and also, my sons go to school very near to our home leaving little room for regular exercise. So for a long time I ignored the call of the Nanaimo Bars, but there is only so much one can do when compelling pictures and delectable descriptions call. I could no longer resist the Canadian charm and this is the outcome of just that!

The bars consist to three separate parts integrated into one dessert – a bottom layer of coconut, chocolate, nuts and graham crackers. A middle layer of custard. And the final layer or crowning glory of chocolate.

I used Peter Reinhart’s recipe to make the graham crackers.

1 3/4 Cups Whole Wheat Graham Flour

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 Cup Milk/Yogurt/Soy Milk/Rice Milk/Buttermilk (I used whole milk)

6 Tablespoons Honey/Agave Nectar

1 1/2 Tablespoons molasses or sorghum syrup (I used molasses)

1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon (Optional (I opted out)

Pre heat oven to 350 degree F. Combine all the above mentioned ingredients into a dough. Add extra flour or liquid to make a firm dough. Knead for 3 minutes or until it feels like modeling clay – neither too soft nor crumbly.

Line a baking pan with parchment or silicone. Moisten the work surface with a little water, roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. If the dough begins to spring back, stop rolling and allow it to rest for a few minutes. Dock the entire surface area of the dough with a docker/fork. Cut into large/medium rectangles (or any other shapes actually). Transfer to the baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes and then rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes more, until the crackers turn a rich brown on the top and underside.

Do your best with the crackers but the recipe for the bars is forgiving as far as the crackers go because it uses them as part of a larger scheme!

Here is what to do with the Bottom-most/first layer (or the larger scheme) –

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)

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.

I made the middle layer of custard from scratch (I just thought that it was better). Here is the recipe for the custard: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09211/987178-107.stm

I must say, at this point,  that the custard is runny and I had to freeze the whole tub to get it to stay together. Perhaps, it is a good idea to simply use a mix as suggested by Lauren. Her recipe is given below.

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 could be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

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

The crowing glory or the layer of chocolate is made by melting 4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate and 2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter over low heat, then cooling and spreading the mixture over the custard mix.

Once assembled cool, cut and gobble! My husband and I could not have just one piece each even though we have had an overkill with sweets! What about you?

A bite of Canadian Good Stuff

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.