Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars

It's Daring Bakers time again. After not participating last month I was excited what the new year would bring. The challenge consisted of two parts, first we would make homemade graham crackers, either regular or gluten free, and second use the graham crackers to make Nanaimo bars.

I always wanted to make my own graham crackers, and they turned out really good. I made the regular version, since I don't know anybody with food allergies. This is a really nice recipe, which I will use again as a cheesecake base in the future.

Well, to say the least I wasn't really excited to make the second part, the Nanaimo bars. Living in Vancouver for a couple of years now I have seen them around in several places, but never had the urge to try them. They just didn't appeal to me, but I still wanted to be a good sports and make them. Well, you always have to try everything at least once, right. Unfortunately, my intuition was right and I didn't really like them. Of course I knew they would be sweet, so I already used less than half of the sugars, but I also thought the butter-cream in the middle level was just too heavy. My Canadian sweetheart said they were better than all the other Nanaimo bars he tried before, but he is also not a fan of them.

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

Graham Crackers 

Makes 10 4 x 4.5-inch graham crackers or 48 2-inch squares

375 g all-purpose flour
175 g dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
100 g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
80 ml mild-flavored honey
5 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180° Celsius).

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 about two or three more crackers.

Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Nanaimo Bars

makes about 10 bars

Bottom Layer
57 g unsalted butter
25 g granulated sugar
2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup Graham Cracker crumbs
¼ cup almonds, finely chopped
½ cup coconut, shredded

Middle Layer
57 g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla custard powder
½ cup icing sugar

Top Layer
70 g semi-sweet chocolate
14 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream

candied almonds to decorate

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 a loaf pan, laid out with saran wrap. Put in the fridge to chill.

For middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer. Put in the fridge to chill.

For top layer: Melt chocolate, butter and heavy cream over low heat. Let cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

Take out of the form and cut in slices about 1-inch thick. Decorate each slice with a candied almond.

Enjoy and Guten Appetit!

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