Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Gluten-Free Nanaimo Bars

You may remember from my Tofu Satay post, that I’ve joined an online cooking challenge: The Daring Cooks.  The group cooks a new (and shhh… secret) recipe every month, and forms a community around cooking the same recipe.  They also have a baking group: The Daring Bakers.  And I am hooked… this month was also my first challenge, and in honour of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada, we’ve made a traditional Canadian dessert.

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.

And you know what?  These are amazing.  All of the effort was worth it, and the graham crackers (maybe with a little less sweetness?) will be a new staple around here. You know they’re good, as the only photo I managed to grab was of half a cookie.

My absolute favourite part of these Nanaimo bars are the bottom layer: coconut, almond, graham cracker, and chocolate.  Oh yes, yum.

Gluten-Free Nanaimo Bars

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 Silpat
  • Cookie sheets
  • Double boiler or pot and heatproof bowl
  • 8 by 8 inch square pan
  • Hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Saucepan

Part A) Gluten-Free Graham Wafers

  • 1 c. glutinous rice flour (which despite the name, is gluten-free!)
  • 3/4 c. tapioca starch/flour
  • 1/2 c. sorghum flour
  • 1 c. raw sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 7 Tbsp. (100 g) unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 5 Tbsp. milk (skim, soy, almond, rice)
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, 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.

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.

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. (I chilled for 2 hours, but next time will chill overnight — it will make life SO much easier!)

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator.  (And work quickly, or your dough will melt a bit and stick to the counter). 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.  You will need more flour than you think: The dough will be very sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 x 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350F.

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.

Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.

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.

When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 1/4 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.

You will have more graham wafers than you need for the nanaimo bars, so you can enjoy them as cookies.  The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Part B) Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. raw sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/4 c. Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
  • 1/2 c. almonds (finely chopped, I used the food processor)
  • 1 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut

Middle Layer

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (I used Bird’s)
  • 2 c. icing sugar

Top Layer

  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted Butter

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.

Middle Layer:

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well (easiest in a mixer, you get a workout if you do it by hand). Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

Top Layer:

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

Once chilled (preferably overnight), cut into teeny squares (these are really rich!) and serve.  These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Dessert, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian


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12 Comments on “Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Gluten-Free Nanaimo Bars”

  1. Pemma
    January 27, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    did you freeze me a taste?
    I’ve never in my life even tried a nanaimo bar. Imagine that.

  2. January 27, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    Lindsay, thanks so much for sharing a few of those with me! They were delightful! 🙂

  3. January 28, 2010 at 12:42 am #

    I’m so glad you enjoyed my challenge! Your wafers and bars look spot on =D. Fantastic job!

  4. January 28, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    Pem – I totally froze you a taste 😉 Just waiting for the next time I see you!

    Louise – you’re so welcome! Glad you liked the mini ones!

    Lauren – it really was a great challenge, and my g-f friends thank you for making it gluten-free!

  5. January 28, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Pem – PS. how have you never had a Nanaimo bar? You’re Canadian! These are very traditional, so they’ll be a good place to start!

  6. January 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    They look great! 😀 And I totally agree, the graham crackers were so good! I ate so many of them 😛

  7. January 28, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Congratulations on your first challenge, and welcome to the Daring Bakers! Your bars look delicious!

    • January 29, 2010 at 10:00 am #

      Thanks, Jeanne!
      I really enjoyed the challenge, and can’t wait for next month’s!

  8. January 29, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    Oh Nanaimo bars – they look like they turned out great!! Nothing like baking with curlers in your hair. We’ll have to go for gluten free vegan ones soon. They make my heart melt a little

    • January 29, 2010 at 10:01 am #

      Yes, gluten-free vegan nanaimos will be our next date! LPK?

  9. January 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm #

    Hooray on joining the DB group and congrats on completing your first challenge 🙂


  1. Daring Cooks: Gluten-Free Mezze « The Kitchen Operas - February 14, 2010

    […] I needed due to the stickiness of the dough in the rolling-out phase (a lesson learned from the Gluten-Free Graham Crackers I made last month).  So we had “Falafel Pizzas”, and made a great mess… […]

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