Nanaimo Bars, Gluten-Free

Nanaimo Bars. I never really knew about these until I moved to Seattle. They are said to have been created about 35 years ago in the city of Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They are a super-decadent concoction of a chocolate/almond/graham cracker bottom layer, a custardy middle layer, and a chocolate glazed top layer.

I made these as part of the January 2010 Daring Bakers’ Challenge that 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 the website for The City of Nanaimo. Lauren chose these bars in part to commemorate the Winter Olympics, which are set to start in British Columbia in a couple of weeks.

If you’ve never had Nanaimo Bars, you’re in for a treat. They are so decadent that I can’t really eat them on a regular basis. But, every so often, I get a major craving for them. It’s got it all as far as tastes and textures one craves in a dessert–a cookie, custard, and a chocolate glaze. Yum.

One of the reasons Lauren chose this recipe is that you can go the extra step and make your own gluten-free graham crackers as part of the recipe. She directed folks to a gluten-free graham cracker recipe on another site. Of course, I chose to make the graham crackers from my own recipe. Other than making your own graham crackers, the Nanaimo bars recipe is fairly easy and straightforward. Making your own graham crackers adds to the preparation time. One thing I did is I baked 1/2 of my graham cracker recipe for these Nanaimo Bars and I baked, crushed, and froze the second half for a later recipe. That way I always have some graham cracker crumbs on hand when I want to make more Nanaimo Bars, or cheesecakes, or…

Nanaimo Bars, Gluten-Free
-adapted from the City of Nanaimo website

First step: make gluten-free Graham crackers
-once baked, crush enough crackers to get 1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs

Bottom Layer:
1/2  cup (115 g; 1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50 g)  granulated sugar
1/3 cup/25 g unsweetened cocoa
1 extra-large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds (I toasted mine before I chopped them)
1 cup shredded coconut (can be sweetened or unsweetened. I used sweetened)

Middle Layer:
1/2 cup (115 g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoon vanilla custard or pudding powder (such as Bird’s Custard Powder, which is gf)
2 cups powdered sugar

Top Layer:
4 oz.(115 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Make bottom layer:
-melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. (Or if you are very careful, you can do it on the stovetop in a regular pot over low heat)
-whisk in the egg and stir to cook and thicken
-remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, nuts, and coconut. Press firmly and evenly into an ungreased 8″x8″ pan

Make middle layer:
-cream the butter, cream, and custard powder in a large bowl with an electric mixer
-gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth and spreadable

Make top layer:
-melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool.
-once cool, pour over middle layer, spread evenly, and chill
-cut into squares.

Makes about 20 bars, depending on how large you cut them.


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