A wha? you may ask. I certainly did. Nanaimo Bars? I can't even SAY that right, much less make them. Apparently Nanaimo Bars (which hail from the town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island) are a super rich and sweet Canadian dessert bar. And for this month's Daring Bakers challenge, we first had to make graham crackers to crush up and add to the base layer of the Nanaimo Bars.
And while I really enjoyed making simple and delicious graham crackers, I could have passed on the Nanaimo Bars. They are too rich and sweet (and labor intensive) for me. If you decide to make them, I recommend using less sugar in the custard layer, unsweetened coconut and some darker chocolate.
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.
From 101 Cookbooks
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.
Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
Yield: 10 large crackers.
From Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery (Villard, 2000)
For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup almonds (finely chopped)
1 cup coconut (shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)
For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups 10X sugar
For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
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.
For middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.
For top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill. Cut into squares and enjoy!