Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January Daring Bakers' Challenge - Nanaimo Bars

Well, here we go - my first Daring Bakers' Challenge post!

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.

Now, what, you might be asking, is a Nanaimo Bar. That was my first question at least. My second was "how do you pronounce nanaimo?" (the answer to that one is nuh-nay-mo, according to dictionary.com) As for what these are, the answer is SWEET. They are a three-layer dessert bar that is very rich, very sweet and very tasty.

The bottom layer of the bar is made with graham cracker crumbs, and the first part of the challenge was to make our own graham crackers. I was really excited about that, since that had been something on my baking wish list for a while. Every recipe that I have seen for graham crackers, this one included, calls for a food processor, which I don't have, which is why I haven't tried them before. But for the challenge, I proceeded anyway, hand mixing the dry ingredients and thoroughly cutting in the butter by hand. Little miss helped with the whisking, and had the job of tossing the cold cubes of butter into the dry ingredients. She also helped measure the milk and honey and whisk together the wet ingredients... I have to say, it is fun to let her be more actively involved when she wants to be.

Now, the recipe specifies that once everything is all mixed together, the resulting dough is supposed to be soft and sticky. It actually says very soft and sticky. My dough? Not so much. In fact, in gathering it all together in preparation for refrigerating the dough overnight, mine was dry and crumbly. Uh oh. I was a little worried. I wrapped the dough and put it in the fridge then proceeded to worry about what I could have messed up. I was so worried, as a matter of fact, that before going to bed, I made another batch of dough. I knew I'd proceed with the first batch, just to see what would happen, but I didn't want to not be able to keep going with the rest of the recipe, so, you know, better safe than sorry. I used 1/2 a cup less flour the second time and the dough was definitely softer and stickier, so I was pleased that it would be a good backup dough if needed.

The next morning I rolled and cut the first batch of dough. I didn't worry about the shapes or uniformity of the sizes, since the actual bars call for these to be crushed into crumbs. Considering that the dough was not at all the consistency that the recipe indicated, the finished product came out pretty well! They don't taste exactly like the store-bought graham crackers, but they are tasty, and you can bet I will continue trying to get these right. (In case you are wondering, yes, I also rolled and baked the second batch of dough, but purposely baked them to be softer and more cookie-ish, just for a change of pace...)

Now on to the actual Nanaimo Bars. The bottom layer is a mixture of graham cracker crumbs, coconut, crushed nuts (which I replaced with honey crunch wheat germ), cocoa, butter... all yummy stuff, all melted and mixed together to make a solid base.

The second layer is basically a slightly thicker buttercream frosting - butter and confectioners sugar, with a little heavy cream and custard powder (I used cornstarch and vanilla extract instead, I would have no other use for custard powder) mixed in.

And the top layer? Melted chocolate, softened up with a little bit of butter. Um, yeah, these aren't exactly diet friendly bars. Butter is a key ingredient in all three layers. Yum.

Popped these into the fridge for a couple hours and tried them after dinner. My favorite was the bottom layer. Little Miss's favorite was the middle layer (no surprise there!). Then, wanting more opinions on them, I brought some to the gym with me that night, since one of my favorite taste testers was working that night. What? You don't bring butter-rich desserts to the gym with you? To give to their employees? Hmm. Anyway, she loved them. I also brought them with me to my in-laws' house for them to have for dessert the following night. Got thumbs up all around.

So thank you, Lauren, for a really fun and interesting challenge, and for introducing my family to this Canadian dessert!

And now I can't wait to see what next month's challenge is.


  1. What you can't dry ice ship 'em to Texas??? LOL! Good job Shell! Keep up the good work!

  2. Welcome to the Daring Bakers great job on your first challenge. glad you enjoyed it.

  3. I'm so glad I could introduce you to the bars! Yours look amazing! Welcome to the group =D.

  4. great going, i live how u involved ur little one, i havnet had the patience yet to involve my 4-yr old girl but yes no fair, will do it pretty soon, live ur other two posts also, lasagne and crossiants, planning tot try crossiants soon. cheers

  5. My little helper is all grown up. He mainly helps with the eating now. Great job!


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