STAY WITH ME: I know the minute you read "Gluten Free" you either let out a big sigh of relief OR thought about moving along to another recipe. If you're not so thrilled about the Gluten Free part of this, let me tell you that this recipe can be made with All Purpose flour, or Whole Wheat Flour, etc. But here is a real chance to check out a treat that is sweet, crunchy, chocolate, creamy, addictive and also happens to not have any wheat in the ingredients.
When I signed up for Daring Bakers I wanted to be challenged, to be inspired to cook outside of my comfort zone and to learn about other cultures and dietary requirements. Remind me to be careful of what I ask for, okay?
The history of Nanaimo Bars (pronounced: Na-Nye-Mo) goes back to the 1950's in Nanaimo (a city in Canada) when a housewife created these no-cook coma-inducing sweets. The city still takes great pride in these, and many Canadians connect Nanaimo Bars with their childhood food dreams. If you are from Canada or ate these growing up - I'd love to hear about it.
The traditional recipe starts with making Graham Cracker Cookies and then uses the crumbs from those to create the crunchy cocoa nutty base. In our Daring Bakers recipe, we made the Graham Cracker Cookies using several alternative flours instead of wheat flour.
It absolutely made the process more challenging for those of us accustomed to having gluten help stick stuff together. After a few tricks (which I'll share with you), it all came together beautifully; not to mention these wafers are light, crispy and flavorful all on their own.
If you want to learn more about Gluten Free eating, check out Brynn's (my friend and Cook Book partner) award winning website: The Practical Celiac.
Quote from Brynn: " I am eating one now while I type. They are the perfect decadent treat. The thing I love the most is that they have a hint of crunch that stays crunchy. That is hard to find in a gluten free treat. Stuff is usually hard as a rock or oily. This is the perfect mix of textures in the mouth that I miss not being able to eat regular food. I love them – though my hips might be angry at you later for giving me so many! I put a couple in the freezer to see how they fair in there but since all the other ones are gone I doubt they will actually make it more than another couple of hours before hitting my mouth. I love, love, love the graham cracker cookies. I enjoyed them with my morning coffee. They have a great taste. I kept thinking I would love to try them chocolate dipped – reminded me of a twixt bar or something that I haven’t been able to eat. "
Notes for gluten-free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars:
• 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.
** my experience notes**
This recipe made really good tasting cookies.
This dough is beyond sticky, have plenty of Rice Flour for dusting or rather "covering" the dough in as you roll it out. I recommend it being between 2 parchment papers and then sliding the bottom paper onto the baking pan.
After cutting the squares/circles out, I put the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes before trying to remove the shapes to a cooking pan.
Mine took much less than 25 minutes for cooking, more like 15-17 minutes with turning the pan once half way through.
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
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.
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.
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.