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 www.nanaimo.ca.
In December I found out about the Daring Bakers, and I really wanted to join but I thought, I’m probably not up to speed with them. But they have deadlines for getting in each month due to the way they all reveal the challenge on the same day, and the thought of missing the deadline and having to wait a long time gave me that extra push. So I dove in, and here I am doing a Daring Bakers’ Challenge!
Unfortunately I missed the month they did cannoli only to come in right on time for the graham cracker month. Graham crackers. I won’t even eat the things if they aren’t in s’mores or pie crusts. But ok. I wanted to be a Daring Baker, I’ll do it.
At least there is also a recipe for the graham crackers to go in – Nanaimo Bars. This is cool because it’s a Canadian recipe I had never heard of, so I’m learning.
I’ll be learning about gluten-free cooking, too. I of course wanted a deeper understanding of the chemistry of gluten-free baking, so I read up on the different kinds of flours at Gluten Free Mommy. I soon realized these flours replace the starch of wheat flour; the binding action of the gluten is left up to other ingredients, like xanthan gum. Gluten-free Lifestyle gets a little more into the nitty gritty of it – you need less xanthan gum for products that would otherwise rely less on gluten than yeast breads. Guar gum is another possible binder. And adding protein, such as milk powder or gelatin, can be helpful, I suppose because protein strengthens the structure of the baked good. Apparently, graham crackers don’t really need a binder, because there is no egg or gum in them at all. I guess they don’t have to support much!
I couldn’t find glutinous rice flour anywhere, so I used white rice flour. It seemed to work fine. One of my flours seemed not to be milled quite fine enough, though, and left a grainy mouthfeel that kept me
from enjoying them too much, although the flavor was good otherwise. I don’t know which it was but for some reason I suspect the sorghum. I also substituted a little 1% milk and a little cream for the whole milk I was supposed to use. I forgot to make my graham crackers look like crackers, but that didn’t matter for crushing them up for the Nanaimo bars.
The bottom layer is a chocolate custard with stuff mixed in – graham crackers, coconut, and almonds. This is the part I would do differently the next time around. 1) The custard curdled on my first try. I redid it a little differently: I melted the butter halfway, so it wasn’t too hot, then took it off the heat and added the rest of the ingredients, then put it back on the heat and let it thicken. If you don’t mind dirtying up another bowl, mixing the egg with the sugar first would be extra protection. Alternatively, you could cream the butter and sugar and then add the egg, like you’re making cookies. The point is, if you have fat and/or sugar mixed with the egg, the proteins will be protected somewhat from curdling. If you add the egg to already hot ingredients, you should remember, unlike me, to temper them first by adding a small amount to
the egg and then adding the egg to the rest. 2) I think the flavor would be better with melted chocolate than
cocoa powder. I think this about most chocolate flavored things.
The middle layer is mostly butter and powdered sugar. Gross to think about, delicious to eat. The top layer is mostly chocolate. Delicious again.
I served these at a party I threw recently and they got great reviews. I happened to have a guest who eats gluten-free, so she was pleasantly surprised!
PS: Apologies for the bizarre look of this page. I wrestled with WordPress to get my pictures displayed nicely and WordPress won. Kind of took the fun out of my first Daring Baker post, to be honest.