Nanaimo bars single

Where does the time go?  Here we are already, the 27th of the month, and the very first Daring Bakers Challenge for 2010.

This month, we are baking a Canadian specialty, Nanaimo bars.  I had never heard of Nanaimo bars before reading this challenge.  Had you?  I was so pleased Lauren at Celiac Teen shared this recipe – and something special from her country.  I love learning about food origins.

As I reach the end of Tropical Fruit month, I wanted to punch up the challenge with a few more tropical overtones.  As I read through the recipe, the healthy dose of coconut included in this bar was encouraging, and prompted me to create an ice cream pairing.

I cherry picked a couple of key flavours from the Nanaimo bar recipe to incorporate into the ice cream.  The selected custard powder and cinnamon ingredients were injected into my standard vanilla ice cream recipe, along with a healthy dose of tropical bananas.  The overall combination reminded me of banana pudding.  A winter pudding, with a summer twist.  Delicious.

With Lauren’s obvious enthusiasm for her chosen dish as well as the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I have added a little Canadian Olympic cheer into one of my photographs.  Lauren, that photograph is for you!

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.

Nanaimo bars set

{ Nanaimo Bars }

Please note I did not follow the gluten free instructions for the challenge. My ‘official’ and willing taste tester, my lovely co-worker’s Canadian husband, has fond memories of the Nanaimo bars his mother would make when growing up in Ontario.  I wanted to make them taste as close as possible to what he would remember. Hopefully they do, eh!

* Ingredients *
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) Graham Wafer Crumbs (See following 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)
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
Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

* Directions *
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.

{ Graham Crackers } From Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery (Villard, 2000) via 101cookbooks.com

* Ingredients *
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
For the topping:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* Directions *
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.
Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Yield: 10 large crackers

{ Banana pudding ice cream } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

* Ingredients *
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ cup custard powder
2 bananas, partially frozen and coarsely chopped

* Directions *
Beat the egg yolks together with the sugar.  Separately, mix the salt, cinnamon and custard powder thoroughly into the cold milk.  Set aside.  In a saucepan, gently heat the cream until bubbles appear around the edges.  Remove from heat.  Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath and set aside.  Slowly whisk the heated cream in a steady stream into the yolk mixture to temper.  Once it has been completely mixed, transfer the mixture back to the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat and mix in the milk.  Pour mixture through sieve, and set into an ice-water bath.  Chill mixture overnight in the fridge.  The following day, churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Towards the last 5 minutes of churning, add the coarsely chopped bananas. Freeze for a further 1-2 hours to firm up the texture.

Makes 1 1/2 litres/quarts