Nanaimo Bar with the Australia Day touch

Nanaimo Bar, sounded like a crazy Japanese snack when I first heard it. Only then realised that Nanaimo is actually a city on the Vancouver Island in Bristish Columbia, Canada. The Nanaimo city so proud of this confectionery chocolate squares, they even have a page fully dedicated to the Namaimo Bar on their official website. From the website,

According to local legend about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry not “Daphne’s Delights” or “Mary’s Munchies”, but “Nanaimo Bars”. The entry won a prize, thereby promoting the town as much as her cooking. Some American tourists claim sovereignty over the dessert, referred to as “New York Slice” which is sold in many other places in the world. Nanaimo residents refuse to accept this theory, however, believing that once you set foot on Vancouver Island, there are no other places in the world. The official Nanaimo Bar recipe was available as a handout as well as on quality tea towel and apron souvenirs.

In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts, in conjunction with Harbour Park Mall, initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, almost 100 different variations of the famous confection were submitted. The winner: Joyce Hardcastle.

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 was rather uninspired when I first found out about this month’s challenge and the Nanaimo Bar looks nothing fancy but resembling of a caramel slice. Despite being unmotivated, I simply can’t sit out on this one again as I’ve already missed out the last two baking challenges. But I am so glad that I didn’t pike out on the challenge and made the Nanaimo Bar. It is actually much tastier that I’d have expected.

I’ve modified the recipe accordingly to use all purpose flour to keep the cost down. A typical Nanaimo bar will have butter icing filling and we are suggested to use Bird’s custard powder mix to make the filling. I do not have Bird’s custard at hand, and I can imagine it will be an extremely sweet filling, so I decided to revise the recipe and substituted with caramel filling instead. Not to mention it is a lot easier to make and ready in no time.

I know the Nanaimo bar is a Canadian’s pride, but since the whole country is celebrating Australia Day here down under, I simply had to sprinkle more dessicated coconut on top of the bar for that extra Australian classis ‘lamington’ touch.

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For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers

Ingredients
2 cups of wheat flour
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt
100 gram Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
80ml Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
75ml Whole Milk
30ml Pure Vanilla Extract

Method
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

Ingredients
For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
115gram Unsalted Butter
50gram Granulated Sugar
75ml Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
200gram Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup dessicated Coconut

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
2 cans condensed milk
30 gram unsalted butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
150 gram Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter

Methods
1. For bottom Layer: Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Celsius fan-forced). 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. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and slightly risen. Remove it from oven and let it cool.

2. For Middle Layer: Place butter and golden syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When butter has melted, add condensed milk. Stir constantly over medium heat for about 9-12 minutes, until caramel thickens. Gently spread caramel evenly over base. Return to oven for a further 10-12 minutes (a 1/2cm border of lightly browned caramel should form around the edges of the slice).

3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

Tips
1. Use a hot, dry knife to cut the slice (fill a tall glass with hot water, dip knife in water for a few seconds, and wipe dry with a clean tea towel).