Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Graham Wafers and 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

Wow, can you believe it friends? I'm actually posting this challenge on time, something I haven't done since oh, maybe June? Anyway, here it is and I thought this was a pretty good challenge. It wasn't very hard which was nice since we're still getting settled after our crazy December move, and I had never made homemade graham crackers before, something that I've been meaning to try.

Even though we were encouraged to make the graham crackers gluten-free, I just didn't have the budget to go out and buy three types of flour that I will probably never use again, so I just used regular old wheat flour which was also allowed. The graham cracker recipe was very forgiving. I fudged some things by not freezing my butter, using light brown sugar instead of dark, and 1% milk instead of whole, and it all turned out fine. That's my kind of recipe.

The Nanaimo bars were pretty good--I especially liked the bottom layer. Mmmm. I wasn't crazy about the middle layer which reminded me of cheap birthday cake frosting, but I am toying with the idea of making these again with either a lighter, more custardy middle layer or a cream cheesy layer. Cheap birthday cake likeness aside, this was a fun challenge and a nice introduction to a popular Canadian treat just in time for the Olympics.

The recipe:
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
(*I just used 2 1/4 c. regular flour)
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed (*I used light since that's what I had)
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 (*I didn't want to bother with freezing the butter, so I just cut it up right out of the fridge and it was fine.)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk (*I used 1% since that's what I had)
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.
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) (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.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Gingerbread Houses

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Hello, my blog-world friends. I am sorry I've been gone for so long. Some of the blame goes to the fact that I'm just plain lazy, but I do have two other reasons for neglecting this blog that are a little better:

1. My family and I just moved. During finals week. The week before Christmas. Consequently, cooking and baking exciting things weren't really high on my priority list.

2. I am pregnant with my second child and morning sickness has taken it's toll. Sadly, there were some days that I just couldn't even look at a cookbook or think about food blogs. And the idea of making the cannoli that was last month's Daring Bakers' challenge turned my stomach and I just couldn't do it. But I'm into my second trimester now and feeling much better, so I felt it was finally time to get back into things.

The challenge this month was so fun and festive. I love gingerbread houses, and I was excited to try to make an entirely edible one--usually I just cheat and hot glue my houses together. We were given a choice of two recipes we could use. I chose the Scandinavian one to pay homage to my Swedish roots, and I must say, they weren't kidding when they warned that the recipe was made more for sturdiness than for taste. This gingerbread made my house smell wonderful but tasted like spiced modeling clay. It was very durable, though. Even though some daring bakers complained that the dough was dry and I did have to add a couple of extra tablespoons of water and still had some cracking around the edges as I rolled it out, I liked working with this dough. It held it's shape well as I transported it to cookie sheets, and the baked pieces were nice and sturdy.

For my template, I used one I found here at I would have liked to decorate it more, but I was already late posting this and my two year old was eating the candy almost as fast as I could put it on. Anyway, enjoy, and happy New Year!

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

P.S. The original recipe called for making a simple syrup to "glue" the house together, but I just used the royal icing and it was fine.