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 happily took up the challenge- I have been long trying to make satisfactory graham crackers, and had never heard of Nanaimo (pronounced Nah-nye–Moh) bars! To make it vegan, I would have used Earth Ballance non-dairy butter- but I decided to pass up on the the ten sticks of the stuff (how expensive could that get?) and experimented with a more healthy low-fat version.
A traditional Nanaimo bar is comprised of three layers: the first is a chocolate, coconut, almond, graham cracker crumb base (made gluten-free). The middle layer is a butter-custard mixture, and then topped of with a chocolate spread (mixed with more butter).
Well, my bar went a like this….
Graham crackers: I decided to, once again, try to design my own gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, oil-free graham cracker recipe. I tried. MANY TIMES. I finally just used the soy grits leftover from homemade tofu making- mix it up with some GF flour, agave, etc., press it into the pans, preliminary bake, cut into squares, and dry out in a low-temperature oven. Sadly, the dough cracked and would not cut- and ended up breaking off the pan in small chunks and crumbs. Oh well, they had to be pulverized anyway.
First layer: Using sesame seeds instead of almonds, and a combination of carob and cocoa powder changed up the flavor a bit. Cooked garbanzo beans were my bet on replacing butter and…. it worked! With consistency, anyway. The bottom layer was my favorite part- though I wished I had left out the carob. Brown rice syrup lent a hand in binding the mixture and sweetening.
Middle layer (garbanzo “custard”): Garbanzo beans replaced the butter in this layer- even though I added a bit of Earth Balance for flavor. Garbanzo beans gave the same color, stiff texture, and a mostly neutral flavor- a perfect booster for the sweetness of brown rice syrup, and some other ingredients to mimic a custard flavor. It had a slightly mealy texture that I’m convinced the dried dates did.
Chocolate topping: A mixture of unsweetened bakers chocolate and date syrup made a suitable chocolate ganache to smear atop to bar.
A freezing session in the freezer (the garbanzo “custard” wouldn’t harden otherwise) made a nice slicing subject, and gave the garbanzo “custard” a great texture, aside from the slight mealiness. I did like the bottom layer- and I have lots of graham cracker crumbs leftover for other baking ventures!
I certainly want to perfect my approach to this particular confection- I believe that this first try has great possibilities.
Thanks Lauren, for the great challenge!