Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge January 2010 - 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

There was no way I was going to sit out this month's challenge, not after I saw a picture of a Nanaimo bar... drool... and I knew exactly who I wanted to make them for. I wasn't familiar with them at all, in fact to me the name suggested that they might be made out of some kind of potato (imo is Japanese for potato) but read that,

"Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Nah-nye-Moh. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country."

My friend Kyna was with her family in Canada when the challenge was announced, but came back to Japan last week with the news that she and her family are to return to Canada in the Spring. I'm so selfish, I really don't want them to leave! But they recognise that this is where the Lord is leading them and are putting their trust in Him, and so who am I to try and talk them out of going? They will be terribly missed here... but they haven't gone yet and so we must make the most of the remaining weeks!

This month's challenge was in two parts. Firstly, we were to make our own Graham Wafers (preferably gluten-free), and then to use those Graham Wafers to make the Nanaimo Bars. As I've sat out a couple of challenges over the past year, I decided not to take the 'easy' option (for a change) and to go with the gluten-free version.

The only problem I came up against was working out what flour to use, as I wasn't able to get hold of tapioca starch or sorghum flour. In the end I found a packet of roasted corn flour and it all turned out fine. In fact, the Graham Wafers were far, far tastier than I expected them to be! I've never even seen one before, and just assumed that they were like digestive biscuits (which is what I usually use when Graham Wafers are called for). Maybe they are supposed to be like digestive biscuits, however mine weren't. They tasted more like those little biscuits you are sometimes served with coffee... can't remember what they are called. Mine turned out quite dark (that was due to me having used koku sato) and very crunchy, but utterly delicious!

When making the Nanaimo Bars, I added the zest of a mikan (mandarin orange, the fruit of the moment around here) along with a squeeze of juice to the middle layer, as well as adding a little mikan juice to the top layer of chocolate.

Now, I need to give these away as soon as I possibly can, or else the scales may never forgive me!

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.

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.


  1. OH MY GOSH... Well done, well done you!!! You did a fantastic job Angela... I'm so proud of you.. oh this looks so professional.. love the food props for the photo too...

    When I come visit you.. please have this one hand!!!! "wink"

    This looks AWESOME!!!!

  2. Thanks, April! I left things toil the last minute (as usual!), ended up putting the layers together as I was getting the dinner ready... in my tiny little kitchen... recipe for disaster... but nothing went wrong - hurrah! I'll save you a piece xxx

  3. Looks fantastic....very nicely done.Great ones:)

  4. the combination of orange and chocolate sounds so good!

  5. I love the idea of using oranges. Your bars look fantastic!

  6. What is koku sato? I also think that the combination of orange and chocolate sounds delicious!

  7. My maid-of-honor studied at a university in Nanaimo for a year so I always think of her when I see these yummy bars. Leave out the coconut and it's a dessert after my own heart! Yours look fantastic!!

  8. Yummo-you get to do the most rewarding challenges on the Daring Bakers Challenge!! With all that butter I can see why you wouldn't want to eat them alone but I don't think I could give them all away!!

    Shame about your friend leaving, I hope you get to spend some quality time together before she goes

  9. They look fantastic and I like the addition of mikan zest :) Hehe yes so true about the Imo! Potato bars wouldn't be quite as enticing I think! Sorry to hear about your friend leaving too! :( xxx

  10. GORRRRGEOUS!! Love the big, thick bottom layer. Mmm.

    Sorry that your friend will be leaving!

  11. Hi chef_d and Mon,

    I'd been craving Jaffa Cakes! You can't beat a chocolate and orange combi... now I'm day dreaming about Terry's Chocolate Oranges! xxx

    Hi ap269,

    The koku sato I used is an Okinawan dark, unrefined sugar and is pretty much the only dark sugar I can get my hands on here! xxx

    Hi Janine,

    I must confess that I would have preferred them without the coconut! I'm sure I will make these again, but perhaps substitute the coconut with crushed cornflakes perhaps? xxx

    Hi achan,

    Yes, lots of butter... no wonder my weight went up this week! Now I can't wait to hear what the February challenge will be... xxx

    Hi Lorraine,

    Thank you! I suspect that you would be able to work your magic and concoct some uuterly delicious potato bars! ;-) xxx

    Hi Julie,

    Oh, they were gorgeous indeed! I had to freeze half of the batch to stop me eating them, and they are promised to friends (thank goodness)! xxx

  12. Glad you enjoyed them and I love that you added a bit of the citrus to the middle layer. Nicely done!

  13. Hi creampuff,

    Thank you! I have been amazed at the creativity of other Daring Bakers, so many mouth-watering flavours out there... xxx