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 http://www.nanaimo.ca/.

For the month of January we Daring Bakers were challenged to create this gorgeous Canadian treat to celebrate the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver as well as the Graham Wafers that are crushed and used in the base. January is always a busy month for me – coming off my son’s birthday in December then Christmas followed by New Year, my daughter’s birthday and traditionally the time we go away for a week or two not to mention getting ready for “back to school” . So I was pleased with the challenge as it is really quite simple and they would be perfect for my daughter birthday afternoon tea.

I had heard of Graham Crackers/Wafers but in Australia they are not available as far as I know. My son was excited because now he would have Graham crackers to make true American S’mores! Ahhh, such is the influence of Amercian media on regular Australian children. I must admit, I too, was curious.

Now, to begin, the Gluten Free Graham Wafer recipe required sweet rice flour, tapioca flour, and sorghum flour and as I live in a small regional town these are impossible to find. I did consider buying gluten free flour mix but as no one in my family is gluten intolerant it seemed a waste as this type of flour is expensive. Our host, Lauren, gave us free reign to use all purpose wheat flour as a substitute. Made as per the gluten free recipe many Daring Bakers found the mixture very sticky but with wheat flour this didn’t seem as much of a problem.

I divided the mixture in half and rolled each portion out, cut it into rectangles and baked them without separating.


I have absolutely no idea what Graham wafers are suppose to taste like but these home baked variety are really good! These may be a little on the thick side and I didn’t read the part that said “prick the wafers with a toothpick or a fork”.

The Nanaimo bars are very high in butter content and no, that is not bad, it is indeed very, very good! However in a hot tropical climate I was sure they would melt very quickly so I made one small variation to the original recipe. Lauren’s Nanaimo Bars call for the butter to be melted along with cocoa and sugar then the egg is stirred into the heated mixture to thicken and cook the egg slightly. Instead I cooled the butter mixture then stirred in the egg and remaining ingredients, pressed the mixture into my pan and baked it at 180C for 10 minutes. This really helped hold the base together when I served it.

Our host also gave us the option to interpret the recipe any way we wanted to so some Daring Bakers really used their imagination – think Peanut Butter Nanaimos, Nanaimo chocolates, Nanaimo trifle, Nanaimo cheesecake. I used this opportunity to flavour the filling with coffee which seemed to cut the sweetness of the filling. The Nanaimo Bars were a absolute hit with everyone who tried them. Yes, they are rich, decadent and must be high in fat and calories but hey, what the heck, they’re mouthwateringly delicious and I will make these time and time again.
Thanks Lauren, this was just the kind of recipe I needed this month and to think that it is so scrumptious as well.

Oh, I almost forgot! You’re probably wondering if we indeed tried S’mores. YES! Wow, so sweet but fun. It was all my son’s dream come true – sweet biscuit, gooey marshmallow and melted milk chocolate. Don’t ask how many he had!

Graham Wafers
2 1/2 cups all purpose wheat flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) 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
5 tablespoons (75 mL) 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. It will be soft and sticky.

3. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured 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. Flour 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 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 12 to 15 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

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 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)

Middle Layer

1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) 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
(I added 2 teaspoons of instant coffee dissolved in 1 or 2 teaspoons of boiling water – cooled)

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

Directions:

1. For bottom Layer: Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Cool. Add egg and stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into a paper lined 8 by 8 inch pan. Bake at 180C for 10 minutes. Cool.

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

3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
Cut into squares. Makes 20.

Additional Information:
These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.
The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.