Saturday, February 13, 2010

Daring Bakers January 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

OK first let me just admit that yes, I realize it is February, and this is January's challenge.  I don't have a lot of excuses... actually I have none considering we've had quite a bit of snow this year in the DC area which has shut everything down and has given me plenty of opportunity to not only finish the challenge, but also post pictures.  If it counts for anything, I DID the challenge in January, but just haven't posted it till now.... no?  That doesn't make it any better?  OK, I promise to post earlier from now on.

Lauren, our lovely hostess this month, has Celiac desease and can’t digest gluten, so she thought it would be fun to give everyone the option to make the graham crackers and Nanaimo Bars gluten free.  Unfortunately since I did complete the challenge during one of the aforementioned winter storms, I was forced to use whatever I had in my pantry and did not have the proper flours, etc. on hand to make them gluten free.  Sorry Lauren!

The graham crackers I made were from 101 Cookbooks.  This was a pretty easy recipe that resulted in some of the best graham crackers I've ever had.  I heeded the caution of my fellow daring bakers and floured the surface very well.  The dough, even after chilling overnight is possibly the stickiest consistency I've ever experienced.  I'm not kidding.  You could probably hang this in front of your doors in the summer to use instead of fly paper.  Yes, that sticky.  I even put down a layer of parchment paper to roll it out on becasue I got tired of scraping it off of the counter.
I first tried trimming the edges to make a rectangle and then cutting the crackers out from there, but my first batch was, um... a little less than square.  So I enlisted the help of a rectangle cookie cutter I had on hand to make sure they came out a little more even.  I transferred them to a Silpat mat on a baking sheet and had no problem removing them after they came out of the oven.  I turned down the heat a bit (around 330 degrees) and left them a little thicker than the recipe calls for (more than 1/8" but less than 1/4")  so they were a little chewy - so good!  Here are the sticky suckers cooking in the oven.  

Again, this is a fantastic recipe and actually quite easy.  I highly recommend making your own rather than buying the crispy ones from the store that are loaded with preservatives. 

Now comes the second half of the challenge: Nanaimo Bars.  I have to admit... I'm not a chocolate fan - insert Home Alone scream face here.  Yeah, just not a fan of a lot of chocolate.  And this recipe sounded super rich to me.  So I made some changes that I thought would cut the richness a bit.  However these changes also made it look absolutely hideous.  I'm not kidding.  See for yourself:

See?  I told you.  Let me explain what this is and maybe you'll want to try a bite.  The first layers I didn't adjust too much; still had the cocoa power, sugar, butter and graham cracker crumbs (yes, it hurt to crush up those beautiful little crackers into bits).  However, I substituted the almonds for pecans and eliminated the coconut and went with crushed maple chunks (you can also find them at Whole Foods).

Then for the middle layer I used milk instead of cream and I substituted the vanilla custard powder for some corn starch with a little vanilla extract and I added a smashed banana.  I wish I could take credit for the banana addition, but I saw a fellow daring Baker, Sheryl from One Bite More, who made (Ba)nanaimo Bars.  LOVE the name!  See, there's an advantage to wiaitng till the last minute - you get to steal... I mean, ummmm, borrow ideas from everyone else.

So then it came to the top layer.  What goes better with bananas other than chocolate???  Peanut butter!  I'll actually have to admit here that this change was based more on the fact that I had a bag of milk chocolate and peanut butter morsels on hand than any sort of stroke of genius.  For the record, chocolate chips in a bag are NOT good substitutes for squares of semi-sweet chocolate.  EVER.  The consistency was all wrong and didn't even come close to being able to be spread so I just mixed it in with the banana middle layer and left it at that.  So yeah, it doesn't look pretty, but doesn't it sounds good?  Pecans and maple sugar, bananas and vanilla, & chocolate and peanut butter??  Mmmmm... Go ahead, dig in....
It actually was really good.

Thanks Lauren for the awesome challenge!  Canadian Nanaimo Bars were the perfect thing to get me in the mood for the Olympics!