Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Nanaimo Bars with Gluten-Free Graham Wafers (January 2010)

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

Ahh the Olympics! I love the Olympics! They are just around the corner and the Daring Bakers are honoring the host country, Canada, with this month's challenge. Our host is from Canada and she chose a traditional Canadian dessert bar.

Lauren says, "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."

Lauren also has Celiac Disease so she challenged us to make our Nanaimo Bars gluten-free! I know very little about Celiac or the gluten-free lifestyle, so this was a great introduction into that for me.

The first part of the challenge was to make our own gluten-free graham crackers. I had a hard time finding the special flours needed so I just purchased gluten-free all-purpose baking mix and hoped for the best. The dough came together fairly easy. The only issue was that it was SO STICKY! Even after rolling it out a bit with a lot of (gluten-free) "flour" on the counter, I had trouble moving it to plastic wrap. I would suggest that you dump it right out onto the plastic a step and a mess!

I chilled my dough overnight, but I was surprised at how soft it was even after that. I rolled it out onto parchment paper because other Daring Bakers had said that it was difficult to transfer to the baking sheet. I'm glad I did this because I can see how it would have been a challenge because the dough softened so quickly, turning a bit sticky again.

One re-chilled, the dough was off to the oven. I must say, it smelled wonderful! The honey and vanilla really shine through while baking. They didn't quite turn out as solid as I'd thought they would, but since I was just going to whirl them into crumbs for the bars, I didn't mind. Honestly, the taste of the graham crakers alone was a little to be desired...but they were decent. I may try them again with "wheat flour" to see if that helps with both the consistency and the flavor.

Once the graham crackers cooled, I started to make the bars. The ingredients were easy to find and what you would normally find in desserts. I found that a bit surprising because of the challenge to be gluten-free. I suppose I never really thought about what did or did not have gluten in it.

Since I don't have a traditional double-boiler, I use the old fashioned pot with a bowl on top method. It works great except you have to be careful for the steam escaping. The bottom layer had me worried. It involves adding an egg to the warm chocolate. I added a bit of the chocolate to the egg and then added that to the rest of the mixture. It worked out great although it did have me worried at one does not look glamourous at first....but keep going, it comes together!

The custard layer is my favorite! It is pulled together much like a frosting or icing would be. This is made a ton easier by remembering to have room temperature butter. I used vanilla pudding, because I could not find the custard powder that was suggested.

For the final layer, I used my microwave. I find it easier when you just have the chocolate and butter to zap it instead of doing it on the stovetop. I'm sure our great-grandmothers would have loved to have this choice! The trick with using the microwave for this is to set it for less time than you would think it would take and then slowly add if necessary. I find that for 4 ounces of chocolate with 2 tablespoons of butter my microwave takes about 30-40 seconds....then stir, stir, stir! Of course, this receipe requires that the chocolate then cool down a bit before pouring it onto the custard layer. Don't skip this step! Mine was fairly cool and still tried to mix a bit along the edges. Another tip: Use an off-set spatula for this step. It made it a lot easier!

I then chilled the whole thing overnight. The top layer becomes hard again. It's really solid and a bit difficult to cut. I must say though that the end result is beautiful! Very layered and precise in those layers. After taking the glamour shot I took the pan to work and shared with my co-workers. They raved! I thought that they were really good, though the bottom layer was an interesting texture for me. I swapped out the coconut and put oatmeal in its place...but I can see where coconut would be very good in these (if you like coconut, which I don't).

All-in-all, this is a quick easy dessert that was a big hit! I'd make it again, especially since the ingredients are common enough (the wheat version at least!) that I'd likely have most of it on hand. Thanks to Lauren for a fun challenge, educating us on Celiac and introducing us to a truly Canadian dessert. While watching the Olympics this year I will enjoy knowing that I know a bit more about the host country and their foods.....but I must say....

The Recipe:
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
  • 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

* Note: I used 2 1/2 cups Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix instead of the above flours. You could also use the same amount of regular all-purpose flour, though it would no longer be gluten-free.

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)

*Note: I used oatmeal instead of coconut.

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.

Enjoy with Love,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Pork Satay (January 2010)

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

Cuppy reminds us that, "satay (or sate) is very often served as “street fare” all over the world, and you dip your cool little meat skewer into any variety of dipping sauces. In the US, I’m proud to say, we created the coolest and tastiest satay on the planet – the all-American corn dog. Hooray for the USA!"

Personally I have enjoyed satay in the past, if for no other reason than it normally comes with peanut sauce....and I love peanut sauces! The main focus of this challenge was to properly marinate the meat.

So, you start by making the marinade. I, of course, had a food processor so I used the cheater method. Once all the ingredients were in the bowl....whirl!!! was done.

The next step was to cut the meat. I decided to use pork since that was the traditional meat used for Satay, and I don't mind eating it. I hardly ever remember to use pork in my everyday cooking, so it was a nice change of pace. The hardest part about prepping the meat was (besides my aversion to touching raw meat) figuring out how to cut it so that I could thread it onto skewers and get the presentation. Once I figured it out though, it was easy. Just remember to continually wash those hands and use a separate cutting board for your meats! No cross-contamination here!

Pour in the marinade, squeeze out the air and pop into the refrigerator. I always put my marinating meats onto a paper towel and plate, just in case the bag it is in leaks...nothing worse than meat marinade all over the bottom of the refrigerator!

The next day, I got busy making the peanut sauce, pepper dip and cooking the satay. Both the peanut sauce and pepper dip were easy to make. I would have preferred a bit more heat, but I don't think I used the right kind of peppers in mine (as they were too hard to find!). Next time I will play with it a bit and add either some crushed red pepper flakes or that super spicy schiracha sauce they use in Vietnamese restaurants (I also used it in the Chicken Pho recipe). I used chunky peanut butter...I like the texture of a peanut in the sauce.

The pork was threaded onto skewers. Though this is an optional step, I say go for it if you're going to serve to anyone other than yourself. It makes for a great presenation and is quite traditional. These would make for a great appetizer at a party.

As I've mentioned, the county I live in does not all condo owners to have grills. SO, I use my George Foreman grill for my grilling. It works...I actually love that I don't have to worry about flipping the meat and it cuts the cooking time in half because you're cooking both sides at one time. Of course, the downside is that you don't get that true grill flavor....oh well...maybe someday I'll have it all. :-)

The satay turned out great! The yellow color from the turmeric was fun and the sauces were really good. I made some white rice to serve with them, just to make it more of a meal. I loved the peanut sauce (not sure I've met one I didn't like though), and the pepper dip was really good as well. Here are their glamour shots:

Thanks to Cuppy for a great recipe and a launching point for marinating!

The Recipe:
Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce

Satay Marinade
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T ginger root, chopped (optional) (2 cm cubed)
2 T lemon juice (1 oz or 30 mls)
1 T soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp ground coriander (5 mls)
1 tsp ground cumin (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric (2-2.5 mls)
2 T vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil) (30 mls)
1 pound of pork (loin or shoulder cuts) (16 oz or 450g)

Feeling the need to make it more Thai? Try adding a dragon chili, an extra tablespoon of ginger root, and 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz or 15 mls) of fish sauce. (I keep some premature (still green) dragon chili peppers in the freezer for just such an occasion.)

1a. Cheater alert: If you have a food processor or blender, dump in everything except the pork and blend until smooth. Lacking a food processor, I prefer to chop my onions, garlic and ginger really fine then mix it all together in a medium to large bowl.

2a. Cut pork into 1 inch strips.

3a. Cover pork with marinade. You can place the pork into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the whole lot of it into a ziplock bag, seal and chill.

Chill Chart
Pork               Beef/Lamb     Chicken          Vegetables        Tofu (no oil)
4-8 hrs           6-8 hrs           1-4 hours        20 min – 2 hrs   20 min – 4 hrs
Up to 24 hrs   Up to 24 hrs   Up to 12 hrs   Up to 4 hrs        Up to 12 hrs

Faster (cheaper!) marinade:
2 T vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil) (1 oz or 30 mls)
2 T lemon juice (1 oz or 30 mls)
1 T soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp ginger powder (5 mls)
1 tsp garlic powder (5 mls)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (5 mls)

1b. Mix well.

2b. Cut pork into 1 inch thick strips (2-2.5 cm thick), any length.

3b. Cover pork with marinade. You can place the pork into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the whole lot of it into a ziplock bag, seal and chill.

Cooking Directions (continued):
4. If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak your skewers in warm water for at least 20 minutes before preparing skewers.

5. Gently and slowly slide meat strips onto skewers. Discard leftover marinade.*

6. Broil or grill at 290°C/550° F (or pan fry on medium-high) for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to char. Flip and cook another 8-10 minutes.

* If you’re grilling or broiling, you could definitely brush once with extra marinade when you flip the skewers.

Peanut Sauce
3/4 cup coconut milk (6 oz or 180 mls)
4 Tbsp peanut butter (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp brown sugar (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground cumin (2.5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (2.5 mls)
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (keep the seeds for heat)

1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and lemon, mix well.

2. Over low heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter and your soy-lemon-seasoning mix. Mix well, stir often.

3. All you’re doing is melting the peanut butter, so make your peanut sauce after you’ve made everything else in your meal, or make ahead of time and reheat.

Pepper Dip (optional)
4 Tbsp soy sauce (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp brown sugar (5 mls)
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (keep the seeds for heat)
1 finely chopped green onion (scallion)
Mix well. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Tamarind Dip (optional)
4 Tbsp tamarind paste (helpful link below) (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 finely chopped green onion (scallion)
1 tsp brown or white sugar, or to taste (about 5 mls)
Mix well. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Enjoy with Love,

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Cupcakes are fun! They're all the yummy goodness of cake, but in your own personal, "I don't have to share" size. I have a friend who had a birthday this past week and we're all getting ready to celebrate so I thought I'd make some cupcakes to take to the party. After asking the guest of honor their flavor choice, I hunted down this recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes on a new favorite website, Joy of Baking. It doesn't have any "eye of newt" ingredients, so it's fairly easy to make (some may struggle to find the dutch processed cocoa, but I found mine at Whole Foods and I know in my hometown in CA they sell it at Raley's).

As with every new recipe I normally follow the recipe as is the first time. The batter came together a lot like cookie dough actually. It wasn't until I added the cocoa mixture that I thought it was actually going to work.

The first batch I made I think I only used 1/2 cup water in with the cocoa so it was still pretty thick (oops!). The second batch I made sure to use the full cup, I think it turned out a bit better (so follow the recipe!).

I filled the cups up probably a little more than recommended because I like when my cupcake has a top and you can't really see the cup from the top of the cake. Into the oven they went!

Once out of the oven, since I'd not tried this recipe before, I decided to taste one...just in case! I liked both versions with these notes: The first batch is more dense, a tad dry but still really good, not quite as sweet. They also remind me of the chocolate muffins you get at Costco. The second batch (as the recipe is written) is true cupcake form. Shiny, fluffy, sweet (but not overly so) and chocolate-forward in the flavor. Both are really good. I preferred the one with the recipe as written, but I also love sweets. I think that those that don't like overly sweet things would love the first batch. (First batch on left, Second batch on right in photo below.)

Of course, what is a cupcake without frosting!? I whipped out my handy, dandy, trusty buttercream recipe and tinted it a bright pink...the theme is princess afterall! I got this recipe from a Wilton cake decorating class I took a few years ago. The trick is to use gel colorings...not the liquid stuff unless you want a thin frosting (which isn't great for piping and having it hold up). I decided to distinguish the two batches by the sparkling edible glitter on one, and the decorations.

Aren't they cute!? Here is the guest of honor's special cupcake!

Happy Birthday CP! Thanks for being such a great friend!

The Recipe: Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting
Original Cupcake recipe can be found here.
Original Buttercream recipe can be found here.

Chocolate Cupcakes
1/2 cup (50 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) boiling hot water (The first batch I only used 1/2 cup)
1 1/3 cups (175 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly butter, or line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature. 

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Then in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter and bake for about 16-20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing.

Buttercream Frosting
I'm giving you the one I actually used...the one on the Wilton site if slightly different.
1 cup solid white vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 teaspoon flavoring (I used Wilton Clear can use vanilla, just remember it'll make it off-white in color)
2 tablespoons water (More if you want a thinner frosting...adapt as necessary...I ended up adding a bit more because it's dry here right now.)
1 lb. pure cane confectioners' sugar (approx. 4 cups)
1 tablespoon Wilton Meringue Powder (You can find this easily at Michael's craft stores)

Cream shortening, flavoring and water. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together. Blend an additional minute or so, until creamy.

This is the point where you add in your coloring. I used Wilton gel in pink. Just add it using a toothpick and then whip away again for a minute or so until the color is fully incorporated. I normally have to scrape down the bowl a few times before it's right.

Enjoy with Love,