I was so excited to find out that Lauren of Celiac Teen was hosting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. Lauren always amazes me with her skills in the kitchen – I was just barely understanding the concept of cooking at her age! And to have a Daring Bakers challenge that I didn’t have to convert to gluten-free? Well, that made things a million times easier!
I’d never heard of Nanaimo Bars before this challenge. But now that I’m in the loop, I’m definitely making these again, with one requirement: that there other people are around to eat them all for me. These babies were SO good. But they were also SO bad, calling me from the fridge at all hours, begging me to have just one more. And I caved, too many times. With a graham cracker-almond-coconut-chocolate layer, a creamy vanilla layer, and another chocolate layer, who could resist?
I followed Lauren’s recipe rather closely, only substituting 1% milk for whole milk in the graham crackers. (I just don’t usually stock whole milk.) Those crackers were better than any gluten-containing ones I’d ever had - I munched on a few, and even used some for banana pudding (recipe to come soon!). And for the purpose of making graham cracker crumbs for these bars, they were excellent. I think that in the future, I’d love to try to make these with a mint filling in the middle layer. But honestly, they were amazing just as is.
Gluten-Free Graham Crackers, adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 c sweet rice flour
3/4 c tapioca starch/flour
1/2 c sorghum flour
1 c dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 t baking soda
3/4 t kosher salt
7 T unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 c honey
5 T milk
2 T vanilla extract
In a bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal and you can no longer see chunks of butter.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be soft and sticky.
Turn the dough onto a a surface well-dusted with rice flour. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. (I did this on top of some plastic wrap) Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled, 2 hours or overnight.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto a work surface and roll the doughinto a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour is necessary. Cut into 4X4 inch squares. Repeat with remaining dough and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Adjust the rachs in the oven to the upper and lower thirds and preheat to 350 degrees. Prick the wafers with a toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows. (I forgot to do this, but they still came out fine.) Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Cool completely.
To make crumbs – place wafers in a food processor and pulse until crumbs, or place in a large ziploc bag, force all the air out and smash with a rolling pin.
Nanaimo Bars, adapted from City of Nanaimo
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/4 c sugar
5 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 c gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c almonds, finely chopped
1 c shredded coconut
1/2 c unsalted butter
2 T plus 2 t heavy cream
2 T vanilla custard power (such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted – I did this.)
2 c powdered sugar
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 T unsalted butter
For the 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 8X8 inch pan.
For the middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and powdered sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.
For the top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. (Cool to room temperature. If you don’t, your top layer will swirl in with the middle layer.) Spread over middle layer and chill.until firm. Cut into squares.
Makes about 16 squares.