Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge: 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

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Nah-nye-Moh. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across Canada.

A little bit about the challenge:  This was designed as a gluten-free challenge, although the original recipe was not gluten-free.  The requirement was to make our own graham crackers and then use them in the base layer of the Nanaimo bars.  I don't have any pictures, this time, of the process I went through in my little galley (i.e. mixing and rolling the very sticky graham cracker dough), but believe me it got messy AND cluttered!  There are a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, but precious little room in which to work.  I also am trying to emulate cooking at sea, so I'm REALLY trying hard not to use electric appliances (i.e. food processor, mixer, etc.) and do everything by hand.  

In spite of my "self-imposed" limitations, I managed to turn out a super sweet dessert bar that my husband really liked, but our 4 yr old, Ben, did not.  I think for Ben, it was the texture of the bottom "cookie" layer.  There are a lot of things you can do with the recipe to change the flavors and the textures of all of the layers.  John, my husband, and I came up with a few as we were eating our way through the bars...Aside from having to make our own graham crackers, it was a snap to put together.  Now for the recipe...

Preparation time:
• Graham Wafers: 30 to 45 mins total active prep, 2 ½ hours to overnight and 45 mins inactive prep.
• Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.

Equipment required:
• Food Processor
(I did not use one, I mixed them by hand) 
• Bowls
• Parchment paper or silpats
• Cookie sheets
• Double boiler or pot and heatproof bowl
• 8 by 8 inch square pan
• Hand mixer or stand mixer 
(Again, I did not use one, I mixed by hand)
• Saucepan

Gluten-Free Graham Wafers

1 C.  Sweet rice flour (aka. glutinous rice flour)
3/4 C.  Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 C.  Sorghum Flour
1 C.  Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 tsp.  Baking soda
3/4 tsp.  Kosher Salt
7 T.  Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 C.  Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 T.  Whole Milk
2 T.  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 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.

Nanaimo Bars


Bottom Layer
1/2 C.  Unsalted Butter
1/4 C.  Granulated Sugar
5 T.  Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 C.  Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 C.  Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 C.  Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer
1/2 C.  Unsalted Butter
2 T. and 2 tsp.  Heavy Cream
2 T.  Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.) (Not being able to find Custard Powder, I substituted and amount of cornstarch and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla flavoring)
2 C.  Icing Sugar (aka confectioner's sugar)

Top Layer
4 oz.  Semi-sweet chocolate
2 T.  Unsalted Butter

1. 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" pan.

2. Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

3. Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

Well, this was a messy, gooey, but great challenge!  It was my first baking challenge from the Daring Bakers.  The Daring Bakers is part of a website, The Daring Kitchen, a group was started to challenge bakers and cooks to step outside their comfort zone and challenge themselves to try new and different things.  I joined not only to learn to bake and cook, but also to see how far I can push the limits of the space I have to work in, a 5'x6' sailboat galley.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Satay!

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

I recently joined The Daring Cooks challenge group. As a matter-of-fact, this is my first challenge and I'm so glad that it was not complicated and something that we've already had, albeit in a Thai restaurant. I think I've tried to make one Thai dish ever, even though we really like it. At some point, we will cast off our dock lines and go cruising. Dishes like this one, simple and delicious, will certainly make cooking at sea an easy and enjoyable thing to do. This was a wonderful first challenge. I followed the recipe, except I chose to use chicken in place of the pork (already had it). I ran short on time, so I only made the peanut sauce. In the future I will try the different sauces Cuppy included in the recipe.

Satay Marinade

1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T ginger root, chopped (optional) (2 cm cubed)
2 T lemon juice (1 oz or 30 mls)
1 T soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp ground coriander (5 mls)
1 tsp ground cumin (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric (2-2.5 mls)
2 T vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil) (30 mls)
1 pound of pork (loin or shoulder cuts) (16 oz or 450g) or any other meat or tofu

If you have a food processor or blender, blend everything together, EXCEPT the meat, of course, until smooth. I don't have a food processor or a blender, so I chopped everything very finely and mixed it all well in a bowl.

Cut the meat into 1 inch strips and place in a container (bowl, Ziploc baggie, etc.). Cover completely with the marinade. Seal tightly and chill.

Slide meat strips onto skewers. Don't forget to soak wood or bamboo skewers at least 20 minutes before preparing skewers.

Broil or grill at 290°C/550° F (or pan fry on medium-high) for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to char. Flip and cook another 8-10 minutes.

* If you’re grilling or broiling, you could definitely brush once with extra marinade when you flip the skewers.

Peanut Sauce

3/4 cup coconut milk (6 oz or 180 mls)
4 Tbsp peanut butter (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp brown sugar (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground cumin (2.5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (2.5 mls)
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (keep the seeds for heat)

Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and lemon, mix well.

Over low heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter and the dry ingredients mixture. Mix well, stir often.

All you’re doing is melting the peanut butter, so make your peanut sauce after you’ve made everything else in your meal, or make ahead of time and reheat.

Pepper Dip (Optional)
4 Tbsp soy sauce (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp brown sugar (5 mls)
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (keep the seeds for heat)
1 finely chopped green onion (scallion)
Mix well. Serve chilled or room temperature.
Tamarind Dip (Optional)

4 Tbsp tamarind paste (helpful link below) (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 finely chopped green onion (scallion)
1 tsp brown or white sugar, or to taste (about 5 mls)
Mix well. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Patience, please

This is my first post on my first blog, so have some patience please as I learn and grow into my writing and tweaking the site. I'm a little (read lot) intimidated by all of the awesome blogs that are out there. I follow a few here and there as my interests and life have changed. I hope I can be as prolific with my words and insights as others. I also hope that I can keep things interesting enough to keep you all coming back.

Just a quick bit about me and this blog: I live on our 45' sailboat with my husband, 4 yr old son (Ben), and our Golden Retriever (George). Life on the boat is great. My biggest challenge, though, and the main purpose of this blog, is cooking and baking in my current 5'x6' galley. To keep me inspired, I follow several blogs and have joined The Daring Kitchen (, a site dedicated to inspiring their members to cook or bake outside the box, to step outside of their little comfort zones and try new and different things. I think this will be great for me and interesting to see what I can concoct in my tiny galley on the water. I will also mix in family things periodically. Having a 4 yr old and a dog are also a big challenge and their antics drive me insane while at the same time make me laugh.

So please, stop by often and leave a comment or two. You can encourage me or discourage me, it makes no difference. It's my journey...