January 27, 2010

Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars for Daring Bakers Challenge!

After missing the Daring Baker's Challenge in December, I'm back in the new year with White Chocolate 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/.

I wanted to be creative this month and try some amazing combinations of flavors but again, I didn't get enough time to put my ideas into action. Lauren encouraged us to try gluten-free graham crackers, but unfortunately in the end I had to go with what I had at home. I used a mix (half each) of wheat flour and all-purpose flour for my graham crackers. I halved the recipe for the crackers as it was advised in the forum that we just need 1/4 recipe for making the nanaimo bars given for the challenge. The dough indeed was very soft and was kind of loose, so I added probably 1/4 cup more flour to make it into a dough.

The dough was not super bad to work with but I should say it was very soft and delicate. Since I knew I am going to use the crackers for the bars, I didnt bother to cut them out of rolled dough. I just cut the rolled dough and baked as is. My crackers didn't need to be baked for even 20 minutes because I opened the oven around 20 minutes and the edges had actually started to burn! (Lesson: Keep an eye on the crackers!!). So there's no picture of the baked crackers! ;-)

I made the rest of the nanaimo bars according to the recipe given. Eventhough initially it felt like there wasnt enough of the custard middle layer to cover the bottom layer, it gradually gives away and spreads nicely. After reading a comment about how the chocolate top layer wasn't enough to cover the top, I doubled the amount of chocolate (white) but used the amount of butter specified in the recipe. There was more than enough to spread on top. A bit of butterscotch chocolate garnish on top finished off my nanaimo bars!!

VERDICT: Nanaimo bars sure are delicious!! The combination of all three layers work perfectly. My favourite is the bottom layer which is a mixture of all different textures. The soft cracker crumbs along with chewy shredded coconut and crunchy (yes, they stay crunchy!!) almonds are awesome! I could eat them all the time :-). I think I should not have used any more chocolate for the top layer than what was given in the recipe because taken together, the three layers would work the best (perfect sweetness) at the proportions given.

I have made Nanaimo bars before, and both times I found it too sweet for my tastes, though that doesn't mean that I wouldn't eat them!! JM loved the nanaimo bars too, lil LM was happy licking the butterscotch chips! ;-)

Preparation time:

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

Equipment required:
• Food Processor
• 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 (You may use a wooden spoon, but this makes it much easier!)
• Saucepan

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


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)
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)

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

For Nanaimo Bars — 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.

Additional Information:

These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.

The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Mine lasted about that long.

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.

For the Nanaimo Bars, if making with wheat, replace the gluten-free graham wafer crumbs with equal parts wheat graham wafer crumbs!

Have a great day everyone!!! Hoping to see you soon here on Tasty treats!

January 23, 2010

Cheese balls - great party appetizers!!

Happy New Year, everyone!! I know its been almost a month since the new year, but better late than never I guess! I have been meaning to share this recipe with you since after Christmas but finally today, I got to make this post on Tasty treats! Yes, things are really hectic over here, I just dont know how to manage my time. Its totally weird that even now, I cant really say that I have adjusted to having to work, spend a chunk of my spare time in commute and still having to be a mom and a wife, all the while wishing to keep my blog going!! I had to skip the Daring Baker's challenge for December becuase I just couldn't figure out a time to do it! All the working food bloggers out there, please give me pointers!! :-)

Anyways, we had a quiet but nice Christmas meal with just the three of us. I had tried roasting Cornish Hens for the first time, along with a few other new recipes, which I am hoping to share with you soon. We had these amazing cheese balls as appetizers. These are very quick to put together, but they would definitely impress your guests in their looks, not to mention its wonderful taste. The texture of the soft, melting cheesy balls add onto the great appeal of these easy appetizers. Make sure to serve them warm, so as to keep the cheese melted.

I found this recipe in the Food Network Magazine at work, in a small ad for Viva Paper towels. The recipe has been shared by Jeannine Williams. I really didnt make any changes to the recipe except for that I didnt have garlic powder (I thought I had it, but it turned out on the day of cooking that I didnt!! - should have checked first!). So ours were probably lacking the flavor, which we absolutely didnt notice, because they were delicious!! The tomato ketchup dip is definitely the perfect accompaniment for these golden-brown fried cuties!

Recipe (Makes approximately 44 balls) :

Ricotta cheese (15oz. container) - 1
Eggs - 2
Shredded Mozarella Cheese - 2 cups
Seasoned bread crumbs - 2 cups, divided
Garlic powder - 1/4 tsp
Vegetable oil - for frying
Tomato sauce - for dipping


Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot or deep fryer until the termometer registers 360F.

Mix together ricotta and eggs.

Add mozzarella cheese, 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs and garlic powder.

Roll cheese about the size of golf balls, toss in remaining 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.

Carefully place in oil.

Fry a few at a time, about 1 minute 30 seconds.

Drain on paper towels (Viva ofcourse!!) and serve warm.

  1. We got about 20 big cheese balls (not golf ball sized for sure!!)
  2. Serve warm so that the cheese is still melted.
  3. Coat the balls well, with bread crumbs. If the cheese portion is exposed, it might melt and stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. I used plain toasted bread crumbs and not seasoned crumbs.
Have a great week ahead!! See you soon with more recipes...