Thursday, January 28, 2010

nanaimo bars with homemade graham wafer crumbs

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

I’m going to be honest.  I live in British Columbia, so while I enjoy a nice nanaimo bar, the thought of making them for our Daring Bakers’ challenge didn’t fill me with excitement.  I’ve made them, like, a gazillion times before.  However, I’ve never made graham wafers, ever!  So that was what totally intrigued me. 

To get to the point – I’m never buying graham wafers again.  Or graham wafer crumbs.  Once you make your own, you’ll wonder why you’d want store bought.  They’re tasty AND easy!  It’s win-win!   

We were allowed to make wheat based graham wafers, so that’s what I did.   While I’m open to trying the gluten free wafers, I knew if I went out to buy rice flour, tapioca flour and sorghum flour as listed in the recipe, I’d have them going stale in my pantry in no time.  So I exercised my option to forgo the gluten-free aspect of the challenge.

But here’s the gluten-free recipe for those who are interested:

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.

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.

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 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.

Monday, January 11, 2010

sticky toffee trifle

Sometimes you reserve a recipe for only special occasions.  This is one of those.  Not because this recipe is overly challenging (it's not) but more so because you know that if you keep this calorie bomb in the house, you're doomed doomed doomed.  It will be calling your name like a siren from the kitchen....  "Eat me..." it says... "Come on.... you know you want to...just a little... it's okay..."  Oh no!   You'll struggle to resist its creamy, gooey, tart and sweet song as its voice reaches your ears from the fridge.  And you know what?  It's only getting harder to resist as it improves with age... Damn you sticky toffee trifle!  Damn you!

So I've relegated this delight to once a year.  This is served only for Christmas dinner along with a steamed Christmas pudding which I also adore.  This trifle has it all... cranberries, toffee sauce, dates, and a rum flavoured whipped cream.  So... very... good... This has been on our Christmas dinner table for the past four years and will be making an appearance at every Christmas dinner for years to come.

I challenge you to make this and not have this as one of your favorite desserts.  You heard me!  Try it and you too will be lured by this divine and luscious endorphin releaser.  I dare you!

Watch out - this makes plenty (about 16 servings) 


  • 1  quart whipping cream
  • 1/4  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/4  cup  dark rum
  • Date cake (recipe follows)
  • Toffee sauce (recipe follows)
  • Poached cranberries (recipe follows)
  • 1/4  cup  slivered pitted Medjool dates (see notes)


1. In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, whip 2 cups cream with 2 tablespoons each granulated sugar and rum until soft peaks form.

2. In the bottom of a 4- to 5-quart trifle dish or straight-sided glass bowl, spread a third of the date cake cubes level. Drizzle 1/3 cup toffee sauce evenly over cake. Spoon about 1 cup poached cranberries (including juices) over sauce. Spread about half the whipped cream evenly over cranberries. Repeat with another layer of cake, sauce, cranberries, and whipped cream. Layer remaining third of the cake cubes over the whipped cream, drizzle with 1/3 cup toffee sauce, and spoon remaining cranberries over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours.

3. In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, whip remaining 2 cups cream with remaining 2 tablespoons each granulated sugar and rum until soft peaks form. Spread over trifle and garnish with slivered dates.

4. To serve, scoop portions onto plates. Pass remaining toffee sauce to add to taste.

Date Cake:

1. Put 3/4 cup chopped pitted Medjool dates in a blender or food processor. Pour in 1/2 cup boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes. Whirl until smooth.

2. In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed (use paddle attachment with standing mixer), beat 3/4 cup (3/8 lb.) room-temperature butter, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and the date purée until well blended and smooth. Add 4 large eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. In another bowl, stir together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda; stir into butter mixture until well blended. Scrape batter into a buttered and floured 9-inch square baking pan.

4. Bake in a 350° oven until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto rack; remove pan and let cake cool completely.

5. Trim off dark edges of cake; reserve for another use or discard. Cut remaining cake into 1-inch cubes.

Toffee sauce

In a 1- to 2-quart pan over medium heat, stir 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter, 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice until sugar is dissolved and mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in 2 tablespoons vanilla and cook 1 minute longer. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups whipping cream and remove from heat. Makes 2 cups.
Poached cranberries: In a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium-high heat, stir 1 1/2 cups orange juice, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until sugar is dissolved. Add 12 ounces rinsed and sorted fresh cranberries or thawed frozen ones; simmer gently just until skins begin to split, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and chill until cool, at least 30 minutes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

buttermilk corn bread

Have you ever had a recipe that you make so often that you take it for granted?  I made cornbread to have with dinner tonight and it occurred to me that I should blog about it.  I've made this recipe so often... at least a couple times a month.  It's such an obvious topic and yet it had never remotely occurred to me before!

I often turn to this recipe when I have some buttermilk to use up in the fridge, as was the case tonight. This is usually served as an accompaniment to my beef stew, but tonight it was served with pork ribs, corn and squash with salad.

Don't overcook it or it will be too dry.  The recipe below refers to a 25 minute cooking time, but my oven gets the job done in 20.  I pull it out when the top starts to turn golden brown and like it best when it's just a tad underdone when pulled from the oven.  It will cook fully while it's resting on the counter.  Best eaten while still warm, this cornbread is still okay the next day if you warm it up a little in the microwave first

This is usually just served with a little bit of butter.  Feel free to add something extra to jazz it up (see the bottom of the recipe for some ideas).

Buttermilk Corn Bread
from Bread by Beth Hensperger

(yield: one 9 inch round bread; 6 to 8 servings) 

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk and butter.  Add to dry ingredients and stir until all ingredients are just blended.  Take care not to overmix.
  3. Pour batter into a greased 9 inch pie plate.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown around the edges and a cake tester comes out clean.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting in wedges to serve.

  • 1 cup blueberries, raspberries or cranberries (great for breakfast)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels