Daring Bakers - 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 www.nanaimo.ca.

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.

This month’s challenge had the option of trying gluten free baking. I was excited to try it since I have never thought about cooking or baking anything that’s gluten free. I was unable to find one of the three flours required for the recipe so I had to stick to whole wheat flour to make the Graham Wafers. Once the wafers were done, the Nanaimo bars were fairly easy to put together.

Preparation time:
• Graham Wafers: 30 to 45 minutes total active prep, 2 ½ hours to overnight and 45 minutes inactive prep.
• Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.

Equipment required:
• Food Processor
• Bowls
• Parchment paper or silpats
• Cookie sheets
• Double boiler or pot and heatproof bowl
• 8 by 8 inch square pan
• Hand mixer or stand mixer (You may use a wooden spoon, but this makes it much easier!)
• Saucepan

For 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

Note: I halved the above recipe which yielded more than enough wafer crumbs to use in the Nanaimo Bars.

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.
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

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) 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.

Notes for gluten-free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars:(provided by Lauren)
• Glutinous rice flour does not contain any gluten, as it is made from a type of rice called glutinous (or sweet) rice.
• The graham wafer dough is very sticky. Make sure you are flouring (with sweet rice flour) well, or the dough will be difficult to remove from the surface you roll it out on. Also be sure to keep it cold. You do not want the butter to melt.
• I chose these flours because of their availability. Tapioca starch/flour and sweet rice flour can often be found in Asian grocery stores, or in the Asian section of you grocery store. Sorghum can be slightly more difficult to find, but it can be replaced with brown rice flour, millet flour or other alternatives.
• In the Nanaimo Bars, it is very important that the chocolate be cool but still a liquid, otherwise the custard layer will melt, and it will mix with the chocolate, being difficult to spread. Allow the chocolate mixture to come to room temperature but not solidify before spreading the top layer on.

Variations allowed:
• Although I highly recommend using gluten-free flours, as the chemistry is very interesting and the end result can be amazing, you are allowed to use wheat.
• If making them gluten-free, no wheat, barley, rye, triticale, kamut, spelt, durum, semolina, or other gluten containing ingredients may be used. Removing those ingredients ensures it is safe for those with Celiac Disease and other health issues where gluten causes problems. If you do plan on serving this to someone on a gluten-free diet, also ensure no cross-contamination occurs.

I had never tasted Nanaimo Bars before and these bars are tasty but at the same time heavy on the palette. A couple of bites and I was done since they are very sweet. I enjoyed the challenge nonetheless.

Jam Tarts

A few days ago I was looking through my mom's recipe collection which I brought along with me when I came from India. A few of the recipes are typed out on sheets which are now yellowing with age. Typed with an almost extinct type writer :D. The paper maybe old, but the recipe is still as fresh as it can be. I came across a recipe for Jam Tarts. My brother and I loved these as kids and every time mom made them, we used to clamber to get an extra tart. I found mini tart pans at the store and was eager to make these as soon as possible.

You will need:

1¼ cups All purpose flour
¼ tsp Salt
1/3 cup Butter/Margarine, cold
4 to 5 tbsp Cold Water

Small tart pans
5 inch round cookie cutter
1/3 cup Strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Cut the butter or margarine into small cubes and add to the flour. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, combine butter into flour mixture till it resembles coarse bread crumbs. Sprinkle a tablespoon of cold water and combine with a fork. Slowly add a tablespoon of water at a time till the mixture is moist and comes together. Shape into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface.

Roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch. Cut dough using cookie cutter and line the tart pans with a circle each, pressing gently with your fingertips to help the dough line the ridges of the pan. Prick dough with a fork on the base and sides, line with foil, place on a baking sheet and bake for 6-7 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 4 more minutes.

Fill tart pans with a teaspoon of jam each. Top with 1 inch strips of dough in a criss - cross pattern. Bake for 10 minutes.

Cool tarts on wire racks completely before unmolding from pans.

Happy Makara Sankranthi

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Makar Sankranti and Happy Pongal.

Like always, I made the Ellu and Sakkare Acchu at home. Since two years my cousin who lives in CA (the one who gave me the recipe for the Acchu) sends me Ellu and Acchu that she's

From the West Coast to the East Coast - Ellu and Acchu from my cousin sis

I made Khara and Sweet Pongal too. Looking at the Sankranti posts from previous years I realized I hadn't mentioned how to make the Ellu at home. There is not much to it but its good to know what goes into it. There are many versions and almost every household has its own way of making this Sankranti treat. This is how I made mine.

You will need:

1/2 cup White sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup Jaggery bits
1/4 cup Shredded dry coconut
1/4 cup Peanuts, toasted and skinned
1/4 cup Split Dalia (Hurgadale)
1/4 cup Sugar coated Cumin seeds or any similar sweet stuff

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Ellu is ready, its as simple as that!

Home-made Ellu & Acchu

Khara Pongal
Sweet Pongal
Home-made Sakkare Acchu

Crowder Peas curry

I was rummaging through my over laden freezer a couple of days ago trying to find a pack of black eyed peas which I had picked up recently. Instead I found a pack of frozen Crowder Peas, which of course I had no idea I had bought like the n number of other things that are in my refrigerator and freezer. Shame on me I know, maybe I will make a resolution to use up everything and buy things more consciously. Maybe....

Ok, on to the Crowder Peas. I went ahead and made a curry, starting off with the usual favorites, onions and garlic..and then on to the spice powders and seasonings and then a splash of coconut milk, just because I had some of that leftover from another dish. And voila..Crowder Peas curry waiting to be devoured by two hungry souls.

What are Crowder Peas you ask? They are also known as Cowpeas and almost look like Black eyed Peas, but are not. I was probably tricked by the look of it and bought it without looking at the name. Anyways, they tasted good, me happy and so was my curry.

You will need:

1 cup Crowder peas
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Few Curry leaves
1 tsp Mustard seeds
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp Corriander powder
½ tbsp Cumin powder
½ tsp Red chilli powder (hot)
1 tbsp Oil
1 cup Water
3 tbsp Lite coconut milk
Salt to taste

Boil Crowder Peas in a pot of water till soft and done. Drain and reserve.

Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds. When it begins to splutter add the curry leaves and sliced onion and minced garlic. Saute till the onions are soft and translucent. Now add the chopped tomatoes and let cook completely, about 3-5 minutes. Add the coriander cumin and red chilli powders. Stir and sauté for a few minutes.

Season with salt and then add the cup of water and the crowder peas. Bring to a simmering boil. Add the coconut milk, boil for a minute and then turn off heat. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

"Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear, and with a manly heart." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It's time to ring out the old and ring in the new with some heart warming dishes and lip smacking goodies. We had a great time with friends on New Years' Eve, counting down to 2010. A great start to a new decade, a new beginning....

I whipped up some triple chocolate cookies a few days ago. I added in three types of chocolate to make it chocolatey in every bite.

You will need: (Yields about 60 cookies)

½ cup Vegetable Shortening
½ cup unsalted Butter, at room temp
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ tsp Baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 ½ cups All-purpose flour
4 oz Milk chocolate chips
4 oz White chocolate chips
4 oz Semi-sweet chocolate mini chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Beat the shortening and butter using a stand up mixer or a hand-held electric beater till smooth and well blended. Add the brown sugar, white sugar and baking soda. Beat until combined; then add the eggs and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in the remaining flour using a wooden spoon. Add the chocolate chips and give one last stir to combine. Using a teaspoon, drop rounded mounds of the dough on prepared baking sheets spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

Let cookie sheets cool between batches so the dough doesn’t spread too much while baking. Cool cookies completely before storing in air tight containers.

These cookies are irresistibly good while still warm. I had a hard time trying to avoid stuffing myself!

Wishing all of you health, wealth, and scrumptious food this year! :)

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