Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Homemade Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars (DB)

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

The first part of the challenge entailed making homemade graham crackers. Ideally, these were to be gluten free, but I didn't get a chance to go to the store to pick up the necessary sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and sorghum flour. Instead, I made whole wheat graham crackers. I made a half recipe and it was more than enough for the Nanaimo bars - a quarter recipe would have been just fine. The only problem I ran into was how sticky the dough was - even after being chilled. Definitely flour both the dough and your work surface generously while you are rolling it out or else you'll end up with a big sticky mess. I didn't end up with the most attractive looking graham crackers for this reason, but next time I know to use more flour.

The second part of this challenge was to use our homemade graham crackers in Nanaimo Bars (pronounced Nah-nye-Moh), in honor of the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and almonds, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country.

The bars are actually a no bake dessert, something that I didn't notice initially until I started making them. I don't have an 8-inch square pan, so I used my 9-inch pan. I made everything according to the recipe, except I doubled the top chocolate layer in order to have enough to spread across the entire pan. It was probably a bit thicker than it was supposed to be, but it didn't really seem to throw off the flavors (proportionately) at all.

Aside from cracks in the top layer when I went to cut these bars, they turned out great. From the comments I had read, I was expecting something super rich and almost too sweet. However, I did not find that to be the case at all. They are sweet and rich but not overly so. I thought they tasted a lot like a Mounds candy bar, but my husband didn't really think so. Either way, the crunch from the almonds and the chew from the coconut both gave these bars a nice texture.

Thanks Lauren, for hosting this month's challenge. I loved these and will definitely be making them again! Make sure you check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see how everyone else enjoyed these Canadian treats!

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

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.

*Note: The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. If making the graham crackers with wheat, replace the gluten-free flours (tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, and sorghum flour) with 2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp of all-purpose wheat flour, or wheat pastry flour. Watch the wheat-based graham wafers very closely in the oven, as they bake faster than the gluten-free ones, sometimes only 12 minutes. (I found that mine still baked up in about 25 minutes.)

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) - If making the graham wafers just for the Nanaimo bars, you can go with just 0.25x the original 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) I used sweetened

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

Top Layer (I doubled this for my 9-inch pan)
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.

*Note: These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.


  1. I doubled my chocolate layer too! You got such nice pretty cuts! Great job on this challenge!

  2. Your nanimo look great! Very delicious! :)
    Cheers :) Anula.

  3. Your bars look perfect Jaime. I am amaze that you had the time making it, I assume your bebe was taking a nap?

  4. Mmmm I love nanaimo bars! I just found out recently that they were a Canadian thing. I thought everyone ate nanaimo bars!

  5. Great job, your bars look yummy.

  6. Love the look of those layers. They make for pretty pictures. Speaking of pretty photos where's a new one of your babygirl? :)

  7. Wow after all the hard work that went into them, it's no wonder these look great :D

  8. I made similar bars a few years ago and they were so good! Yours look great and I love the homemade graham crackers!

  9. haHA--the mounds bar is one of my favorite candy bars, so you've enticed me no end by stating that these are similar. gorgeously done, jaime!

  10. Great job! Your Nanaimo Bars look fantastic!!

  11. Great job on the challenge! They look fabulous!

  12. This is one of the more positive feedbacks I have read from this recipe. Well done!!!

  13. These look really de-lish! I love your photos!

  14. Yum! Your bars look just perfect!

  15. I totally had the same issues with my first half of cracker dough. The second set I floured well and didn't have any problem at all. That was the best part of the bars...though I do love a good icing taste! Yours look great!

  16. I didn't get around to making the Nanaimo bars (although I've made them in the past), but I thought the graham crackers were fantastic! I just used regular AP flour, and they tasted great.