Gluten Free Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars
Hello Everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying the new year! Considering I have Celiac and can’t digest gluten, I thought it would be fun to teach everyone how to bake gluten free, if they’d like. This month we’ll have the option of one or two challenges. The first mandatory challenge will be learning how to make crackers – specifically graham wafers. And the optional challenge will be about learning the chemistry of gluten-free flours and seeing how sometimes a restriction can make the end-product even more exciting!
To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE!
The second mandatory facet to this challenge is that the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are coming! Being in Canada, I am very thrilled to see them (even just on TV!). In a way to welcome everyone to Canada, we will be making Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars.
Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Nah-nye-Moh. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country. I used to buy them at the grocery store before going gluten-free.
In order to make them gluten-free, we’ve got to make the graham wafers ourselves, so that is the first part of this challenge! Then, we’ll make the first ever Daring Bar recipe. Although I highly recommend trying the traditional version, you may play with flavours (this makes a lot of graham crackers, so they’ll be enough for multiple batches of Nanaimo Bars, if you wish. If not, s’mores are always good Wink ). Anyways, I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!
Posting Date: January 27, 2010
Notes for gluten-free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars:
- Glutinous rice flour does not contain any gluten, as it is made from a type of rice called glutinous (or sweet) rice.
- The graham wafer dough is very sticky. Make sure you are flouring (with sweet rice flour) well, or the dough will be difficult to remove from the surface you roll it out on. Also be sure to keep it cold. You do not want the butter to melt.
- I chose these flours because of their availability. Tapioca starch/flour and sweet rice flour can often be found in Asian grocery stores, or in the Asian section of you grocery store. Sorghum can be slightly more difficult to find, but it can be replaced with brown rice flour, millet flour or other alternatives.
- In the Nanaimo Bars, it is very important that the chocolate be cool but still a liquid, otherwise the custard layer will melt, and it will mix with the chocolate, being difficult to spread. Allow the chocolate mixture to come to room temperature but not solidify before spreading the top layer on.
- Although I highly recommend using gluten-free flours, as the chemistry is very interesting and the end result can be amazing, you are allowed to use wheat.
- If making them gluten-free, no wheat, barley, rye, triticale, kamut, spelt, durum, semolina, or other gluten containing ingredients may be used. Removing those ingredients ensures it is safe for those with Celiac Disease and other health issues where gluten causes problems. If you do plan on serving this to someone on a gluten-free diet, also ensure no cross-contamination occurs.
- Nanaimo Bars can be flavored however you'd like, but Lauren highly recommends trying the traditional recipe.
- Graham Wafers: 30 to 45 minutes total active prep, 2 ½ hours to overnight and 45 minutes inactive prep.
- Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.
- Food Processor
- 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!)
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
- 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 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.
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
- 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.
- For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
- For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
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!
Melting butter, cocoa and sugar in the double boiler. This is how it progresses.
After you add the egg, it thickens right up! I've also got the graham wafer crumbs, almonds and coconut in the blue bowl for easy adding!
Add it all together and press in the pan.
This is Bird's vanilla custard powder; it adds a yellow colour and flavour. When all spread in the pan, the middle layer looks like this.
Chocolate at room temperature, then spread on top of the middle layer.
Graham Wafers. These were cooked at the same time on different racks and switched halfway through. Don't fret if they come out differently, just use the not-so-nice ones as your crumbs!
Recipe and video for Vegan Nanaimo Bars (you didn’t think I’d leave you guys out?)