Dare to go to Canada and taste the 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 http://www.nanaimo.ca. Thank you Lauren for the challenge and mostly for the fact that it was supposed to be gluten free.

It is not the first time I am doing gluten free cookies. The best part of baking GF cookies is the many many flour combinations you have available. This time I choose amaranth flour, rice flour and and buckwheat.
The bars are not exactly my “piece of cake”. They are not bad, but they are just too heavy.

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour) – I used brown rice flour
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour – I used amaranth
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour – I used buckwheat
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

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) – I used 235 g
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped) – I used 100 g
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened) – I skipped it

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
* I made a mango mousseline – recipe at the end

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
* I made a mango chocolate ganache

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.

Notes for gluten-free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars:

• 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.

For the mango mousseline
205 ml milk
2 egg yolks
35 g sugar
27 g corn starch
100 g mango puree
160 ml whipped cream
4 g gelatin softened in cold water
1/2 vanilla bean

In a small bowl place the gelatin and water and let it bloom until you prepare the rest.
Place the milk and the vanilla bean on medium heat and bring to a boil. In the meantime mix the egg yolks and the sugar. Add the cornstarch and mix well. When the milk is boiling, take it off the heat, remove the bean and scrape the seeds into the milk. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking continuously. Return to low heat and cook until it thickens. At this point add in the mango puree and cook another 30 seconds or so. Melt the gelatin (in the microwave on LOW or over a pot of boiling water) and immediately add it to the milk – mango mixture. Let it cool to room temperature, and when cool enough add the whipped cream.

For the mango ganache
150 g chocolate chopped
60 g mango puree
30 ml half and half
20 g butter at room temperature

Place the chopped chocolate in a clean dry bowl. Bring the cream and mango puree to a boil and add it to the chocolate. Let stand 1-2 minutes and then stir very gently. When it cools, add the butter and gently fold it in. This is not a very smooth ganache, as you can also see in the photos.

Happy New Year – Coconut Orange and Strawberry Delice

No post from last year …..
I wish you all the best for 2010 and hope you all had the nicest holidays close to your dear ones as I did.

Looking back at the past year, I can say it was a good one. It was the year that made me see very clear what I want to do with my life, a year full of hopes and plans. There was no real action towards my goals, but more perfecting myself and drawing plans for this year.
2010 looks promising or at least this is how I see it. This is the year that will be decisive for what I want to do when I grow up :).
I do not believe in end of the year resolutions, but I strongly believe in myself and in my ability to follow what I set my mind on. I know I will get where I want.
Did you make your resolutions? What do you expect from 2010?

One of my greatest achievements was getting confident in baking and being able to play around with desserts and combining flavors and textures and tastes as I thought and not as somebody else thought before me. I love to start with one ingredient and build around it. These cakes started from my craving for oranges and they satisfied my craving entirely.

For the olive oil sponge
125 g flour
4 g baking powder
3 eggs
90 g sugar
100 ml milk
5 ml orange juice
orange zest
60 ml olive oil

Preheat the oven at 160 degrees Celsius. Butter and line a jelly roll pan.
Place the eggs and the sugar over a pot of simmering water and bring the mixture to 35-40 degrees C while stirring. Remove from heat and beat the eggs until cool and thick. Add the milk and fold it in gently. Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture and gently fold it in. Add the orange juice, zest and the oil and mix until combined. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake it for 15-20 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool.

For the coconut Bavarian
3 egg yolks
40 g sugar
180 ml coconut milk
190 ml whipped cream
5 g gelatin+ 20 ml cold water

Place the gelatin and water into a small bowl and let in bloom for about 10 minutes.
Place the milk over medium heat and bring it to a boil. In the mean time beat the yolks and the sugar until pale. Pour the hot milk over the yolks while stirring to temper the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the pan and over low heat bring it to 76-77 C (stir constantly). Melt the gelatin in the microwave and add it to the creme anglaise. Let this mixture cool to room temperature and fold in the whipped cream.

For the orange mousse
Use the recipe here and replace the lemon juice with orange juice and add some orange zest as well.

For the strawberry sauce
300 g strawberries
75 g sugar
120 ml orange juice (freshly squeezed)
10 cornstarch dissolved in cold water

Bring the fruits, sugar and juice to a boil until the sugar dissolves. Remove about 100 ml of the juices to use for brushing the cakes later.
Add the dissolved cornstarch and return the fruits to low heat stirring gently until thickened. Let cool to room temperature before using.

For the syrup
100 ml reserved strawberry orange juice
50 ml orange juice

To assemble

To build the cakes you can either use silicon molds as I did and build the cake upside down: coconut mousse, strawberry sauce, orange mousse and then a cake square. Or you can use cake rings and start with the cake layer.
As I did, pipe coconut bavarian almost to the middle of the mold. Let it set in the fridge. Add 1 teaspoon of strawberry sauce in the center, then pipe orange mousse to the top of the mold. Top the mousse with a cake square and brush the cake with the syrup. Place in the freezer for 3-4 hours. Unmold the cakes and top them with some more strawberry sauce.

Gingerbread House for the Daring Bakers

This is my shortest post ever, even if it was meant to be long and full of nice words. Thank you Anna and Y for such a nice challenge.
“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.”
The challenge was lovely but time and timing are my worst enemies again.

Anna’s Recipe:
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipefinder/spicy-gingerbread-dough-157…

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Y’s Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375’F (190’C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.

However, due to short time available, I have used an already tested recipe, from Anita Chu’s “Field Guide to cookies”. I will post the recipe sometime soon.
For gluing the house I have used royal icing and for the decorations I have used homemade fondant. The recipe for the fondant is from Vera. The only change I made was to use honey instead of corn syrup and it worked wonderfully.