Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge: Nanaimo Bars

Hehehe... my delicious, yet drippy 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

Eeeee! I epically failed in this month's challenge, and I'm Canadian... way to go :( I did not represent *sigh*. But to tell you the truth, this was actually the first time I'd ever attempted to make Nanaimo bars... ever! The graham cracker recipe went swimmingly, and the cookies/crackers turned out so delicious. And when it came to making the bottom layer of the bars, everything was going according to plan. The epic fail came when I attempted to make a different version of the middle layer of the bar... and ended up with a non-setting, gooey mess. I think I realize where I went wrong, I could have either reduced the amount of liquid or add more confectioner's sugar (sadly, I'd already added the liquid and I had run out of sugar!). Anyways, here's the recipe...

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.

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)

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:
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 8x8 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.

For my middle layer, I simply added some seedless raspberry syrup to the mix (roughly 1/4 cup). I think that this addition of liquid should have been balanced by minimizing the amount of cream added to the mix. However, I don't think my thinking cap was on straight as the smell of chocolate and cookies was too distracting :P Oh well, the challenge was fun and the dish was delicious... although appearing strange and loppy, it was chock full of chocolate-y, raspberry goodness.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wheat-stalk Shaped Bread

I've always loved attempting to make something that I'd never tried before, and shaping bread simply reminds me of playing with play-doh in pre-school! It's so therapeutic and relaxing, and you can eat the end-product :P So, for dinner yesterday I decided to bake up a loaf of bread using my favorite dinner-roll recipe and slathering on an herbed egg-wash just to give it an extra little kick.

Dinner Roll Recipe

- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 large eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp butter or margarine
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Egg wash Ingredients:
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp each: dried thyme, rosemary and parsley

1. Place ingredients into bread machine in order listed.
2. Set the machine on the "dough" setting and press start.
3. Once complete, remove the dough from machine. Cover with a large bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
4. On a floured surface, shape the dough into the "wheat-stalk". This is done by working the dough into a long, thin baguette shape and then taking a pair of sharp scissors to into the dough at 45degree angles roughly 1.5-2 inches apart (making sure not to slice through the dough).
5. Push the consecutive sections of dough in opposite directions; i.e. one piece goes left and the next piece goes to the right.
6. Place shaped dough on a baking sheet that is covered in a single-layer of cornmeal (to prevent the bread from sticking). Cover and let rise for 30-45minutes.

7. Prepare eggwash by beating all the ingredients together. Once bread is risen, coat liberally with egg wash.

8. Prepare oven by placing 1 cup of water in a broiler-pan on the lower-rack. Place loaf on the middle-rack of the oven and bake at 350degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

I really enjoyed the taste of this mildly sweet bread. The outside was a little less "crunchy" than I would have liked, but other than that it was a very nice way to serve dinner rolls. The bread was nice and fluffy and almost didn't need any butter because of the wonderful flavor that the herbed egg wash imparted. The wheat-stalk shape was really fun to make, and gave off the impression that it would have taken a lot of effort to prepare. It's a great way to impress when wanting to show off your culinary skills.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy B-day Sis!

Well, it was my younger sister's sweet 16th birthday last Friday... and being her big sister I decided that I was going to whip up a fantastic cake. I wanted to try my skills at using fondant and gumpaste to decorate the cake, a daunting task... but one that was totally worth every second. As I worked with the fondant, I began to learn how to manipulate the rolled icing and thanks to the world wide web I was able to create a successful b-day cake that my sister was sure to love.

While I was sure that I wanted to use fondant, the trickier task was actually developing a game-plan and deciding what I wanted the cake to look like. I know my sister is a huge fan of Japanese anime, so that helped a bit; however, I would have to select only a couple key-figures from some of her favorite animes to fit onto the finished cake... and that was tricky. The birthday cake eventually comprised of figures from: One Piece, Natsume Yuujinchou and D Gray Man.

Above: Group Shot of the One Piece Cast

Above: Timcampy from D. Gray Man

Above: Madara from Natsume Yuujinchou

My rough sketch of what the cake will look like... as you will see, it looks nothing like the finished product :P

I decided to complete this project in two days, giving me enough time to bake, layer and decorate the cake with less stress and no time-pressure. So, I baked the cake in the morning of the first day and allowed for it to fully cool. In the evening used the fondant to cover the cake and then left the more detailed work for day two.

For the cake's bottom layer, I used the white-cake recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Cookbook. I cut the cake into two layers and placed prepared chocolate frosting in-between the two pieces of cake. For the upper tier, I used a halved recipe of the Food Networks Chocolate Bundt Cake to make a 5-inch round cake; again, cutting it into two layers and placing frosting in between. The halved recipe made more batter than necessary for the 5-inch round cake, however this extra batter was needed to make miniature cupcakes that I would later use for making Madara's and Timcampy's bodies.

The bare layers of the cake. Bottom Tier: White cake, covered in fondant with a grey "chain" wrapped around it. Top Tier: Chocolate cake covered in blue fondant for the "ocean" and tiny brown "islands"

Chopper's Hat from One Piece

The Skull Symbol on the One Piece Pirate Flag

Natsume's book (Yuujinchou), with Madara the cat sneaking around in the background!

Poor Timcampy... where are his wings?

There they are! I used gumpaste to make Tim's wings, as it is more sturdy than fondant after it dries. I used strategically placed skewers for easy attachment of the wings to Tim's body.

Yay! Tim has his wings... I placed his wings on just before I presented the cake to my sister, as I was whether it would be well supported.

Well, there's the end product! It took about two days to finish, and my sister was very appreciative of my efforts.

My sister really loved the cake and was at a loss for words. My entire family was very impressed with the work I had done. After all the toils of working with the fondant, I was just praying that the cake tasted as good as it looked... and thankfully, it did! However, my sister was unwilling to eat the figures that decorated the corner because she stated that they were "too cute", and now I am torn between what I should do with them!! Should I eat them? Can I keep them? Well... my sister or I decide what is to become of the fondant figures, they will remain in an airtight container in the freezer.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mushy Peas!

I was staring at my pantry and wondering what to make for a simple and tasty lunch that wouldn't require too many ingredients. For some reason my eyes gravitated towards a can of peas that had been sitting in my pantry for the longest time, simply waiting to be used up. I wondered what I could do with the peas, when I remembered that I had once ordered a delightful side of mushy peas at my local Irish pub. Mushy peas... that didn't seem like it'd be too difficult to whip up, and I do remember the peas being delicious. So, here's the recipe I used to make them.

Mushy Peas
Serves 2
(or 1 if you're really hungry for peas)


- 1 can (398ml) marrowfat peas, drained and rinsed

- 2 tbsp butter, or margarine if you prefer

- 1/8 cup onions, finely minced

- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

- 1/4 cup milk
- salt to taste


1. Melt butter in a saucepan over high heat
2. Fry the onions and garlic until fragrant and caramelized

3. Add in the milk and lower the heat to medium, continuing to heat until it just comes to a boil.
4. Add in the peas, lower heat and allow mixture to simmer. Place cover on the saucepan and allow peas to cook for 5-10minutes (until most of the liquid has evaporated).

5. Once peas are tender, and there is still enough liquid to help with the mashing, use a fork/spoon/potato masher to crush the peas.
6. Add salt to taste

I really enjoyed this dish. Although it didn't taste exactly like the peas I had enjoyed at the pub, I would definitely make these again. When making mushy peas, you kind of know whether or not you'll like... simply put, if you don't like peas then you probably won't like this dish. Thankfully, I love my peas... in fact, I even indulge on frozen peas when I'm a hankering for something cold. Now, all I need to make this a complete Irish meal is a nice tall pint of Guinness :P

Monday, January 04, 2010

Layers of Delicious Goodness

I was in the mood for something sweet... something really sweet; and in perusing random food-blogs this morning, I stumbled across this amazing recipe for the mother of all layered cookies/bars!! The bars themselves are called Motherlode Layered Cookie Bars... and they will blow your mind. Albeit, my bars are definitely not as gorgeous as those baked up by their creator (I was too lazy to make the chocolate drizzle, and just wanted to dig into the bars :P) but I think I did a fairly decent job at following the original recipe. You can find the original recipe at this blogger has an amazing assortment of recipes that I am dying to test out... hopefully I'll have the time in the coming year... I'll have to make it my resolution!