Daring Bakers Challenge : Nanaimo Bars


(Nanaimo Bar)

I wish there was an amusing story I could tell that related to these Nanaimo bars. The fact is, everything went really smoothly when I made them and because I had some time off from work, I even managed to complete the task a few weeks ago (instead of last-minute, as is my more typical modus operandi).


Some months I have a sort of love-hate relationship happening with Daring Bakers challenges and there have been many times where I’ve contemplated relinquishing my membership, what with the demands of work and life stretching me both time and energy-wise.

It is both a negative and positive fact that I also sometimes find myself faced with recipes I wouldn’t normally contemplate making. Some people consider this A Good Thing and I’m one of these people. I don’t mind being taken out of my comfort zone and can honestly say that with every challenge so far, I’ve learned something new.

Besides, did I mention that I also love baking? I relish the opportunity to discuss ingredients and techniques with like-minded enthusiasts and love any excuse to scurry into the kitchen to make something I can later share with friends.

At some point however, I know I’ll have to face reality and accept that I’m not managing my time smartly. At some point, I’ll have to make the ‘sensible’ decision.

But right now, I’m having too much fun and don’t think I’m quite ready to give it up yet.


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.

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
138g sweet rice flour/glutinous rice flour
100g tapioca starch/flour
65g sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)
200g dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
100g unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
80ml honey, mild-flavoured
75 ml whole milk
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.
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 180’C.
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.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups of crumbs.

Nanaimo Bars
For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
115g unsalted butter
50g granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups gluten free graham wafer crumbs (See previous recipe)
55g almonds, finely chopped
130g shredded coconut

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
115g unsalted butter
40ml heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
254g icing sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
115g semi-sweet chocolate
28g 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.

Comments (87)

Tags: , , , ,

Daring Bakers Challenge : Gingerbread House


(Steve the StormTrooper comes home for the Christmas holidays)

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.

After seeing quite a few amazing DB gingerbread houses recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that mine actually looks rather spare. Lucky I had Steve the Stormtrooper to pimp my house a little. Darth would’ve joined the party too, but he happened to be overseas at the time (true story).

When Anna first told me what she had picked for this month’s challenge, I thought I could approach it in one of two ways – either go the whole hog and decorate it with every single bit of candy possible, or play the minimalist card, and make it plain and simple. Plain and simple won.


This is my second time ever, attempting a gingerbread house. The first was a good many years ago when royal icing was not my friend, and a collapsed house led me to swear off ever making them again. (Hence the beauty of being a member of the DB group, where challenges can often take you outside of your comfort zone.)


As stated in the forums, I chose to use a Scandinavian recipe from a book I love by Beatrice Ojakangas. Although her recipe for the dough isn’t very sweet and lacks the moisture of typical gingerbread recipes, I believe it’s a good recipe for this sort of thing where sturdiness is important, and less sweetness means you don’t overdose on sugar once you consume the gingerbread combined with the royal icing and candy decorations. I did however confuse quite a few people with my conversions for the flour content of the recipe, and for that I truly apologise!

Still I hope everyone managed to have as much fun as possible while attempting this challenge, and thank you again Anna, for allowing me to be your co-host. 🙂

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year everyone!


(Gingerbread panels, ready for assemblage. All the stray bits you see, got assembled straight into my mouth!)

Comments (88)

Tags: , ,

Daring Bakers Challenge : Cannoli


(Vegemite ganache cannoli with avocado ice-cream and coffee)

I should first confess that I baked my cannoli. I’ve made plenty of cannoli before, but never at home due to my no-deep-frying-at-home policy (partly because I dread having to do the requisite post-fry clean up).

So, baked cannoli. Despite this, they actually turned out pretty well. The shells may have lacked that wonderful bit of blistering you get from frying, but they were slightly puffy and acceptably crunchy. A step up from the vast difference between oven chips and fried chips, if you will.

The resulting cannoli formed part of a dessert that played on the flavours of avocado, vegemite and toast; three ingredients which are one of my favourite ways to start the morning. How I came about the idea of incorporating them into a dessert, is a bit long winded and would probably require a flowchart to accurately re-tell. So I’m not going to.

Instead, I thought I would distract you with a recollection of my first avocado experience. Growing up, avocados were considered pretty exotic, so it was only when I was at least 10 that I tried my first avocado. It being the 80’s (that was the excuse anyway), mom served it to us sliced, with scoops of store-bought vanilla ice-cream. It was so horrible, I think I tried to hide the slices underneath the pool of melted ice-cream, and it was many years later before I finally realised how delicious avocados were.

Meanwhile, back at the cannoli factory…

I filled the cannoli shells with a vegemite chocolate ganache and paired them with a scoop of avocado ice-cream and some twisty chocolate tuiles for extra crunch. The avocado ice-cream recipe comes from The Perfect Scoop, by David Leibovitz. Following David’s recommendation to pour espresso over the ice-cream, I decided to incorporate coffee into the dessert, in the form of a crumble.

As with most first attempts, this is a tasty dish that would require a few changes if I were to make it again. And you know what, I just might make it again!


The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Thanks Lisa Michele, for picking such a versatile and interesting challenge this month!

Comments (70)

Tags: , , , , , ,

« Previous Page · Next Page »