Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: The World Comes to Canada

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

Lauren lives in Canada, and since the winter olympics are going to be there, she wanted to do a Canadian dessert. She also has celiac disease, so she can't eat gluten. This month the challenge had two parts to it. First was gluten-free graham crackers. We were allowed to use wheat flower, though, which I did, because I figured why buy three different types of flour that I probably will end up not using? The graham cracker dough was pretty easy to make, although it was very sticky. It chilled and was rolled out very thin. It was easy to roll out, but I found it super sticky and I had to use a LOT of flour.
The crackers were delicious! I made crumbs out of almost all of them, so I have a cup or two left for something else.

The second part of the challenge was Nanaimo Bars, which apparently is a popular canadian dessert. The first layer is made of butter, cocoa powder, sugar, eggs, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and almonds. It is pressed into a pan. You are supposed put on the custard layer right away, but I refrigerated it for two days because of time issues.
Next comes the custard. This is made by beating butter, cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla custard powder. We were allowed to substitute vanilla pudding mix, which I did, because I couldn't find the powder. However, I think this affected the color, because mine was white while Lauren's was yellow.
Finally comes melted butter with chocolate. You spread it over, but the recipe didn't make a whole lot, so I couldn't get all the way to the edges.
All in all, this was a fun challenge. I loved the graham crackers, but thought that the bars were very rich and tasted a bit too much just like butter and sugar. I think they would be delicious with the same amount of the chocolate layers, but only half of the custard layer. I would recommend trying it this way. If you want to try, the original recipe is below. Enjoy!

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

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

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!

Information on Celiac Disease:

Information on Vancouver 2010:

City of Nanaimo:

Gluten Free Flour Information:

Video on making Nanaimo bars:

Recipe and video for Vegan Nanaimo Bars (you didn’t think I’d leave you guys out?):

Recipe for gluten-free and vegan Graham Wafers:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TWD: Coco-Nana Bread

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Steph of Obsessed with Baking. She chose Coco-Nana Bread. I was excited about this week's pick, first because it's a really simple recipe (no layered bars, 4-part cakes, frosting...), and second because I love the combination of chocolate and banana. But according to the P&Q on the TWD site, I am one of just a few. I love bananas and chocolate sauce with ice cream, chocolate chip banana bread... yum. This bread is like Dorie says - the chocolate is the main flavor, but then the banana kicks in, and you can taste both.
The batter is easy to make. I used some new muffin top papers I got. The batter made twelve muffin tops and six cupcake-sized heart-shaped cakes. I should have followed the directions in the book and stacked two baking sheets, but I only used one, so my bottoms burned. Strangely, they didn't taste very burned, they were just black. But they were yummy, and I might make this recipe again if I have a chocolate-banana craving :D
If you want the recipe, you can buy the AMAZING book or find it here on Steph's blog. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Lillian of Confectiona's Realm. She chose the Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars. These start off with an oatmeal-peanut layer of cookie dough. Then comes a chocolate layer with peanuts and raisins (I used golden). I don't know how to describe this layer - sort of like a ganache, but not as rich. Then you sprinkle on more of the cookie dough, which was reserved earlier. Pretty easy, and pretty quick, too, to make. Not to eat, because then you wait two hours and some more in the fridge (we only waited about one - they looked so good and were delicious warm from the oven).
If you baked along this week, you might think mine look really thick. That's because I used my new toy, this pan. It is smaller than a 9x13, which is what the recipe called for, but it says to use recipes meant for a 9x13. It just barely fit, but I love this pan because it cuts the squares for you, and it's all edges. But, these bars are very rich, so we cut each of them in half and ended up with 36 squares (Dorie says 32, but oh well).
They were delicious! All of my taste-testers liked them, and we will definitely be making these again. Oh, and in the P&Q on the TWD website, people were complaining about the raisins, but I actually enjoyed them in the cookie - it would have seemed too rich and chocolate-y without them. If you want to try for yourself, you can buy the book or find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

TWD Rewind: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

This weekend a couple of friends stayed over at my house. We thought a fun activity would be decorating cupcakes, and I figured this was a good time to make Dorie's Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes, which I have been looking forward to. The batter was super easy to make, and the icing was pretty quick as well. We made a couple of changes - first, since we like really sweet desserts, we used semisweet chocolate instead of bittersweet in both the cupcakes and the frosting. Also, the recipe for frosting didn't seem like it made that much, so we doubled it and ended up with only a little bit left over.
The cupcakes were just alright. They were tall and very pretty, but still weren't very sweet and were a bit too dense for my liking. They were also a bit on the dry side. The icing was good, though, although it got very thick once it was on the cupcakes for a while (but I guess this is normal for ganache). All in all, I might make these again for a bakesale, but make a few changes to the recipe. If you want to try it for yourself, you can buy the book or find the recipe here. Enjoy!
(to explain my piping: I was using store-bought frosting and no real piping bag, okay?)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

TWD Rewind: Black and White Chocolate Cake

This week I got an order for a birthday cake. I was told that the birthday "boy" (he's an adult, by the way), likes "wet" cakes and the combination of chocolate and strawberries. I wasn't sure what he meant by "wet" - did he mean moist, or truly wet, like cakes soaked in a liquid? I decided to consult BFMHTY, and I found what I needed. Plus, it's a TWD rewind. Yay! I figured since this has three layers of filling, it would be plenty "wet".
The party was yesterday, so on Friday I set about making the cake. First was the buttermilk layers. Those were quick and easy to do. Then came the bittersweet chocolate pastry cream. A little bit of egg stuck to the bottom, but other than that, smooth sailing. The white chocolate whipped cream? Um, not so much. You start off by melting white chocolate and cream together. Took a while, but worked out fine. Then you beat the rest of the cream until it "holds soft peaks". I, not being and expert on whipped cream, beat it until it had... um... stiffer-than-soft peaks. Then when I added the chocolate, it had been beaten too much. It became butter. This had never happened to me before, so I didn't know what was going on. I called my mom for advice - she told me what had happened and that I would have to start again. This resulted in some frustration and another trip to the store. Oh well. It worked out fine the second time.
Next came the assembly of the cake. I read on some other blogs that some people didn't have enough whipped cream to fill one layer and ice it. When I looked at mine, I found this was true, so I did three layers of the bittersweet chocolate and just covered the cake in the white. In order to get in the strawberry idea, I put some on top of the cake. I was going to put some in the layers of cream, too, but forgot. Oh well. I attempted to make chocolate curls for the top, but ended up with shavings. It looked pretty anyways. I heard back that everybody liked the cake and the birthday boy was happy. If you want to try it for yourself, you can buy the book (link above) or find it here. Please make it. Please. And let me know how it turned out. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chocolate-Almond Saltine Toffee

A couple of years ago, we were making gift packages to send out for Christmas. We wanted a candy recipe, and we came across this one in Food and Wine magazine. We decided to try it out, and loved it. It is different from most toffee recipes, because the bottom layer is saltine crackers. Then comes the toffee, which is tricky to make, because it takes a while to reach the right color. I think the first time we made this, we had to make the toffee layer twice, because we messed it up the first time. Anyways, after you cook it, you spread it over the toffee, and while it's still hot, you sprinkle on bittersweet chocolate chips. You wait for them to start melting and then use a spatula to spread them. When you sprinkle them on, they won't look like enough, but trust me, they are. Then comes toasted almonds. As you can see in the picture above, we burned some of ours. But we picked out the worst ones and the rest tasted fine.
We love this recipe, and it's a keeper in our house. Please try it - you won't regret it. Here it is. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Almond Saltine Toffee (recipe source here)


  1. 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds (6 ounces)
  2. Approximately 60 saltine crackers (not low-sodium)
  3. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  4. 3 sticks (3/4 pound) unsalted butter
  5. 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  6. 1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for about 6 minutes, until golden.
    2. Line a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat or lightly buttered parchment paper. Arrange the saltine crackers on the baking sheet in a single layer, patching any holes with cracker bits; slight gaps are okay.
    3. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and corn syrup and cook over low heat until the sugar is melted. Brush the side of the pan with a moistened pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals. Cook the syrup over moderate heat without stirring until it starts to brown around the edge, about 5 minutes. Insert a candy thermometer into the syrup and simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon, until honey-colored caramel forms and the temperature reaches 300°, about 6 minutes longer.
    4. Slowly and carefully pour the caramel over the crackers, being sure to cover most of them evenly. Using an offset spatula, spread the caramel to cover any gaps. Let cool for 3 minutes, then sprinkle the chopped chocolate evenly on top. Let stand until the chocolate is melted, about 3 minutes, then spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee. Spread the almonds evenly over the chocolate. Freeze the toffee until set, about 15 minutes.
    5. Invert the toffee onto a work surface and peel off the mat or paper. Invert again, break into large shards and serve.


      The chocolate-almond saltine toffee can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. (and it ships well!)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TWD: Mrs. Vogel's Scherben

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Teanna of Spork of Foon?. She chose Mrs. Vogel's Scherben. I was nervous about these, because the first time I ever fried something was when I did the cannoli challenge, only a couple of months ago. But, I had nothing to worry about. The dough for these is simple, and it's mixed together with a wooden spoon, which I love. It's chilled (of course), and then rolled out paper-thin. Then you cut it into strips with slits in the end and chill it some more. Mine came out all different sizes, and I found that the smaller ones were crispier. They took less than 2-3 minutes to fry, which is what Dorie said they would take, but they were easy and (mostly) didn't curl up or give me any other problems. My only comment is that they have to be rolled in the cinnamon sugar right away in order for it to stick, and also we found that they didn't need the extra powdered sugar that you are supposed to put on before serving. These were delicious and HIGHLY addictive! If you like crispy fried foods, you should definitely make these. You can buy the book or find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

TWD's 2nd Anniversary! Chocolate Buttermilk Birthday Cake and (Apple) Tarte Tatin!

Happy second anniversary Tuesdays with Dorie! Two years ago, Laurie posted this on her blog. She had the idea to bake her way through Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, one of the best cookbook writers of all time. Although the group has been baking for two years, I only joined this September. Even so, my oven is now set to "Dorie mode" (three racks, evenly spaced), and I have what seems like endless plastic containers of her bittersweet ganache in my fridge (is it just me, or does it seem like that same recipe is used as a part of a thousand others???). Sometimes it's calming to knead biscuit dough - other times it's stressful to figure out when I'm going to have time to make a cake with four different components. But it's always so much fun to bake, eat, and blog about that week's recipe.
For this week, the members all voted on which recipe we should make. It was a close call between the Chocolate Buttermilk Birthday Cake and the Tarte Tatin. We were allowed to choose to make either/both this week. It being the second anniversary, I thought I should make both. First up: the cake.

The batter for this one was pretty simple. Instead of buttermilk, I used my usual substitute, milk with a splash of vinegar. It worked great. The icing was a bit trickier. First you have to melt several ingredients (lots of chocolate and the secret ingredient, malt powder) over a saucepan of simmering water. This is supposed to result in a smooth, glossy mixture. Yeah, not so much for me. It came out like one glob of what looked like burnt chocolate. I was worried this would make the icing a failure, but once it was beat in with the other ingredients it was fine. What I tasted of the icing was delicious. I didn't get a chance to taste the cake itself. I heard it was good, but a bit too sweet.
Earlier that day we went to the New York Cake Convention (which by the way was amazing!). This got me into a "decorating mood" :D . I have never been very good at piping, but I decided to try it. I was able to make the cute little.... uh... I don't know what to call them... on the side of the cake. I was so proud! I want to keep practicing my piping skills, and eventually work with fondant. Exciting!
Next up: Tarte Tatin. I decided to stick to the recipe and use apples. I had some issues with this one. First you cut up apple halves. You melt butter in an oven-proof skillet, sprinkle on some sugar, and put on the apples. You cook this until the sugar turns a "deep caramel color". This is supposed to take about fifteen minutes. I cooked it for about twenty-five, and it wasn't darkening enough, so I decided to just forget it and continue with the recipe. You put on a big round of puff pastry and stick the whole thing in the oven until it's cooked through. I think I could have cooked both the apples and the pastry more, because both were quite light in color, but the tarte was delicious. It made six slices - I ate one and then went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, there was none left. And my parents were the only ones at home with me. I guess they liked it!
Both of these are recipes that I will make again for special occasions. If you want either of the recipes, I highly recommend that you buy the book that started it all. You won't regret it! And hey, if you buy it, join Tuesdays with Dorie! Thank you so much to all of my fellow TWD members for baking along with me. I can't wait for all of 2010's recipes! Enjoy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

TWD Rewind: Parisian Apple Tartlet

Sometimes there are recipes that seem really easy. A bit too easy, it might seem. Sometimes these recipes are really good. So good that you had no idea it was possible to make such a fabulous dessert out of four ingredients. But sometimes, these recipes are really bad, and you wonder how you could have been so stupid as to even attempt to make them. But then, there are the recipes which are just okay, which tends to be the case with a recipe with just four ingredients. That's the case with these tartlets. They start off with a small round of puff pastry (I think I used one that was a bit too small, because I had to cut my apples smaller than the recipe said to). Then you put on half an apple, cut into fourths. You sprinkle on some brown sugar and butter, and you're done. Bake at 400F for 25 minutes (that was too much for mine - they took about 15-20), and consume. The brown sugar and butter dripped off of the pastry, and burned. This resulted in the bottoms of my tartlets being black and tasting burnt. The apples didn't cook all the way through, but I had to take the tartlets out of the oven because or else they would get too brown. All in all, this is a recipe that I might make if I have small scraps of puff pastry leftover from another recipe, but probably not one I'll serve at a dinner. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can buy the book or find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hershey's Peanut Butter Blossoms

I was recently with nine other members of my dad's huge side of the family. We all stayed at my aunt and uncle's house in Panama City. We all like being in the kitchen, so while we were there, we baked. A whole lot. Even though they aren't my favorite to make, most of what we baked were cookies. These were the first ones. I always see them on the Hershey's website, and had never made them. They are a simple peanut butter cookie. The dough is supposed to be rolled in sugar, but we decided not to, because we thought it would make them too sweet (is that even possible...?). As soon as they come out of the oven, you press a Hershey's Kiss into the middle, so that the bottom melts enough to stick to the cookie, but not enough to lose its shape. These were quick and easy to make, and most importantly, delicious. They keep well (although if you are in a hot place, like Panama, make sure to keep them in the fridge). I will definitely make these again. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Blossoms (from Hershey's)

48 HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup REESE'S Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

  • 2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

Friday, January 1, 2010

TWD: Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake

Happy New Year! This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by The Tea Lady of Tea and Scones. She chose the Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake (this week we are allowed to post whenever we want, due to the holidays). I was excited for this one, because we all love cheesecake at my house. Adding chocolate? Even better!
We just got home at 2 am today, and since I'm now used to cooking in my aunt's house, where we were staying, I wanted something simple. And as Dorie says in the book, this cheesecake is "push-button easy". It starts with a graham cracker crust. Then you put cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, salt, eggs, and melted bittersweet chocolate in a food processor, put it in the crust, and bake it for about 40 minutes. It is supposed to stay in the fridge for eight hours after cooling to room temperature, but mine had to go in the freezer for twenty minutes and in the fridge for about three hours. But, it worked out fine. Everybody loved it, and I really recommend this one! If you want the recipe, you can buy the book or find it here. Enjoy!