With the Winter Olympics in Canada next month, Lauren challenged us to make a popular Canadian dessert: Nanaimo Bars. In the words of Lauren, "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". The difficult part for me wasn't these bars itself, it was the gluten-free graham crackers that are used for the bottom base layer. Of course, we could've gone wheat for them crackers if we'd like, but hey, it wouldn't be a challenge if we all chose the easy way out, right?
So for the graham wafers, I used a 1:1 ratio on the glutinous rice flour and tapioca starch since that's all i had in hand. As for the honey, i replaced it with sweetened condensed milk. I used normal white sugar instead of dark brown, which explains the my pale-looking dough. But despite the little changes i had to make, these graham crackers still turned out amazing! The whole kitchen and dorm hallway smelled of sweet goodness and i was so happy to see that the crackers have baked properly despite some trouble I had with the gluten-free dough which was almost impossible to handle. As for the Nanaimo bars, ehhhhh... let's just say I'm glad they freeze well because it's been sitting in my freezer for about 3 days now... and the only slice JLo and I had was for the initial taste test. It was just too sugary, sweet, and buttery for our liking :( You're thinking: Is that even possible?? But yea, unfortunately JLo and I just don't have that strong of a sweet tooth. The graham wafer recipe, though, is definitely a keeper. So thank-you Lauren for sharing it with us and for hosting the January challenge!
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) 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) whole milk
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) pure vanilla extract
- 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 [picture 1]. 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.
- 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 [picture 2]. It will be very soft and sticky [picture 3].
- Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick [picture 4]. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 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 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.
- Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
- 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.
- Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
- 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.
- 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.
- If making the graham crackers with wheat, replace the gluten-free flours (tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, and sorghum flour) with 2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp of all-purpose wheat flour, or wheat pastry flour. Watch the wheat-based graham wafers very closely in the oven, as they bake faster than the gluten-free ones, sometimes only 12 minutes.
- The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- 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)
- 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
- TOP LAYER:
- 4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
- 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 [picture 2].
- For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer [picture 3].
- For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill [picture 4].