Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Daring Bakers' Challenge for January - the world comes to Canada, where 'Nanaimo Bars' are the all time favourites

I must say, I am very excited the moment I logged into The Daring Bakers Challenge Forum early January to see what is the challenge being posted up. As you can see, this is my first challenge after my membership was being approved in December 2009. Some of you may think that I am crazy to join something like this, but as one of my the blogger told me, joining the Daring Bakers or the Daring Cooks is not something to show off, but to brush up on our baking and cooking skills and knowledge. You don't have to be an expert in baking or cooking to join the Daring team, as all of us are still learning .....from each other and also from the challenge posted up every month. 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.

I must say I did already learned some great things in this first challenge. I never bake any 'gluten-free' recipe before, and never did I know that Canada's very famous all-time dessert is one that called "Nanaimo Bars'. I took the initiative to search the  internet to see what is Nanaimo Bars really is, and this is what is says about this unique sweet-tooth yummy dessert. "The Nanaimo bar is a dessert of Canadian origin popular across North America. A type of chocolate no-bake square, it is named after the West-Coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. It consists of a wafer crumb-based layer, topped by a layer of light vanilla or custard flavoured butter icing, which is covered in chocolate made from melted chocolate squares. Many varieties are possible by using different types of crumb, flavours of icing (e.g. mint, peanut butter), and types of chocolate. Two popular variations on the traditional Nanaimo bar involve mint flavoured icing or mocha flavoured icing."

So , this gives me some knowledge and idea of what this dessert is all about and how it looks like. I followed exactly the recipe given by the Lauren.
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 (also known as Wheat 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) (I substituted this with rice bubbles instead as i don't really fancy coconuts)

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.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Orange Almond Cake.....with a twist

It's been raining for the past two days, and non-stop too......weather like this normally makes me feel lazy and blue. Sometimes, I feel like I can lay in bed the whole day and sleep with my blanket covered until my neck....hehe, but unfortunately, it's a weekday, meaning I have to drag myself out of bed to sent Angelica to school and get to work.
Arriving in the office a bit early, I get to check my favourite food blogs before I start work. I clicked on 'My Kitchen Snippets' and found that she has updated her blog with a new recipe - Orange Almond Cake. I find that this combination is very new to me, because it uses ground almond in the recipe, unlike normal cakes that calls for self -raising flour, or cake flour or otherwise, plain flour. Hehe, hearing me say that, you should have guess what I am planning to do next........I decided to take down this recipe and told myself that I am going to make this cake for the kids to bring to school tomorrow.
The outcome of the cake was very rich, moist and has a slight tangy orange flavor and I get pretty good comments from my in-laws about this cake. If you are looking for a twist in your normal orange cake.....you might want to try this one that uses ground almond ^-^ Happy Cake Baking!

Monday, January 11, 2010

White Chocolate Raisins Cookies

Hi everyone.....school has started for about 2 weeks now....the kids are busy with their school activities, school homeworks and tuition, while I'm busy with my office work too. Normally at this time of the year, the office can be pretty crowded and messy (I mean on everyone's work desk) as the 'chasing' game is on from students and parents to US, and WE to the universities and colleges.....those of you who knew what I do for a living, will know what I meant .....hehe (^-^)
Anyway, that doesn't stop me from baking, I still find the time to bake as much as I can......especially when the kids requested something to bring to school the next day. Sometimes, I find it a bit hard to bake bread or buns for them on weekdays, as the fermenting part takes quite long.....and I only have 2 - 3 hours before I head off to bed. Therefore for weekdays, I will try to bake only cakes, cupcakes, muffins or cookies for them and leave the bread and buns for the weekends
This was one of it that I made during the weekdays and it's really simple and pretty straightforward, and the kids loved it. It's those cookies that are really chunky and cakey, because of the raisins and white chocolate chunks in it, but it sure is yummy. This recipe is adapted from the 'Taste of Home' website. Give it a try and Happy Cookie Baking!

(Yield 2 dozen)

1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup castor sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1  1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup raisins, or any dried fruits of your choice
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

  • In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until crumbly, about 2 mins. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda; gradually add to butter mixture and mix well. Stir in raisins and chocolate chips.
  • Drop by heaping tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375~F / 180~C for 8 - 10 mins or until lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

Butter Cake ........with Sunsweet Pitted Prunes

Today I made another cake from the "I Love Butter Cake" cookbook by Kevin Chai. This book has got a lot of awesome recipes and I like it very much. The best thing I like about this book is that it calls for very simple ingredients that you can easily get it from any cake ingredient shop.
Coming to why Prune Butter Cake today is........because I have a packet of Sunsweet Pitted Prune sitting in my fridge for almost a week now after Angelica deserted it....hehe, so before it hit the expiry date, I had better make full use of it ^_^
So, without much thought, I knew I have seen a recipe of Prune Butter Cake in my cookbook , and that's how this cake was baked. I kinda like this cake's turnout because it's not very sweet (as I have done an adjustment to the sugar), the prune in a butter cake makes it very appetizing , it's not one of those very rich butter cake and it's moist and soft in texture......good even the next day ;)
Happy Prune Butter Cake Baking !

Prune Butter Cake
200gm unsalted butter
100gm margarine
200gm castor sugar (I used only 170gm)
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
300gm plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
200gm pitted prunes (I used Sunsweet Pitted Prunes, and I sliced it very thinly, not whole as in the cookbook)
2 Tbsp Strawberry fruit jam  - for decorating ( I opted this out)

  1. Grease and line a 20cm (8 inch) baking pan, preheat oven to 175~C / 350~F.
  2. Beat butter, margarine, sugar and salt until light and fluffy.
  3. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
  4. Fold in sifted flour and baking powder, mix well.
  5. Arrange prunes onto baking tray. (I sliced my prunes, therefore I added it into the batter and stir it in to mix well ) and spread the batter into the baking pan. 
  6. * If you are decorating , then pipe diagonal lines on the top and put it into the oven to bake for 40 minutes or until cooked.
  7. Leave it in the baking pan to cool for awhile, then slowly transfer to the wire rack to cool completely, ready to serve!