January 27, 2010

Sweet Beginnings To The DB New Year– Nanaimo Bars! Daring Baker Challenge January, 2010


I was quite happy to find out this month's challenge was to make Nanaimo bars from scratch, including the crackers that make the base of this Canadian confection. For the first time since I joined the Daring Bakers 2 years ago, the challenge is to make something that I've made before.

A Nanaimo bar is a 3-layered bar where the bottom layer is made of graham crackers/ digestive biscuits, the middle layer is basically a buttercream with custard powder and the top layer is chocolate.

This January 2010, the 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 http://www.nanaimo.ca/.



As it turned out, Lauren chose the same recipe that I had used back then, though she made some changes.
Lauren cooks and bakes gluten-free and she gave us to the option to make gluten-free crackers which would be used for the lower layer of the Nanaimo bar. Much as I would have loved to make gluten-free crackers, I used regular all purpose flour as the gluten-free flours are not available here.



My Nanaimo bar experience:


Though I’m not new to Nanaimo bars, I had never made the crackers for the base before. I understand that Graham crackers are found in the U.S. and the closest that Britain and its ex-colonies (I live in one) come to these crackers are “digestive biscuits”.




We don’t really like digestive biscuits, though they make an excellent base for cheesecakes and the like. However if I had to eat a digestive biscuit that I came close to liking, this one would be it.
They are good. The secret to crisp digestive biscuits is to roll the dough quite thin.

As for the Nanaimos bars, making them was quite easy. Of course, having made them before I knew what to expect; and that was that Nanaimo bars can be really sweet. When I say sweet, I mean tooth tingling sweet!
So I cut down the sugar in the second layer by half a cup. This still meant that the bar was quite sweet but the semisweet chocolate layer balanced it out a bit.

I usually mention (or should I say complain?) that for a lot of the challenges, some ingredients are not available here and am usually driving myself nuts figuring out workable substitutes.
For once I was happy not to be in that position. One of the ingredients required for the second layer is custard powder, which I understand is difficult to find in many countries.

Well, India is probably one of the few countries where you can find custard powder easily. Even the local “Mom and Pop” stores have them and you can also find it any number of flavours other than vanilla. The store I usually shop at had it in strawberry, raspberry, mango and orange flavours!
I used the very Indian flavour I had on hand which was “kesar pista”. Kesar is saffron and pista is pistachio, and this explains the rather orange colour of the middle layer in my Nanaimo bar!
I also substituted the egg with 1 tbsp of powdered flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp warm water, for an eggless Nanaimo bar.




A few things to keep in mind while making Nanaimo bars:

- If you line your tin with plastic wrap/ cling film, leaving some overhang, and then press in the layers, you can use the overhang to unmould your Nanaimo easily and neatly.
- It is important to ensure that each layer is refrigerated long enough to set properly. This way you will have neat layers to your bars.
- Since the melted chocolate layer is being poured on a refrigerated cracker/ biscuit and custard layer, it will set rather quickly. So one needs to work fast to ensure a smooth top layer.
- For neat squares, dip your knife in hot water and wipe it dry. Then cut through, sharply, into squares.



Verdict:


The last time I made Nanaimo bars (a few years back), my daughter refused to touch them for some reason of her own. This time around, her complaint was they didn’t last long enough!
A bit sweeter than what we are used to, but that didn’t seem to prevent everyone from asking for seconds and thirds (in installments, naturally!). The general consensus was that it was worth making again.

To see the most interesting flavour variations one can use in Nanaimo bars, please hop over to my fellow Daring Baker blogs. You won’t be disappointed.

44 comments:

sunita said...

I love the colour of your layer. I cut down on the sugar and the butter a lot, and made just tiny ones. The crackers were nice though. BTW, we looove digestives ;-)

Happy Cook said...

Beautiful, love that orange flavour. FOr me also a piece please.

lata raja said...

Yes Kesar Pista very Indian! I know I am just not going to make them with so much patience; that does not deter me from drooling over yours, does it?

sra said...

That's a factoid I didn't know - that cust powder wasn't available easily in many other countries! We have those matryoshka dolls at home too - actually, I should look for them as I'm at home now.

Asha said...

YUM! 5th blog, more to come I think today! :D

Love the filling, different color than others.

Deeba PAB said...

Great flavours in there Aparna...my kids loved them too, and DH also. I took your cue and halved the sugar, and they were perfect!
Your bars are lovely!

Parita said...

Lovely flavors Aparna! I saw your comment on high sugar on DB forum and cut down to half in the middle layer, it was perfect! thanks!

Pontch said...

yum
i love the combination that you made
great job
beautiful pictures :)

nitsie said...

Great Flavors Aparna.Mine was too sweet,i shud reduce the sugar the next time i make it.Lovely pics as always!

jayasri said...

Hi aparna, your clicks have become very too professional, the bars are lovely with those orange colour!!, That must be tasting great!!

teafactory said...

these look beautiful, well done!

Asha @ FSK said...

mmm.. kesar pista?!! I can anything with kesar in it! :DD Lovely..

BTW, I love the digestive biscuits from McVities.. sadly it isn't easy to find here..

Cookie Kelly said...

Interesting custard powders. I bet they tasted great!

outoftheoven said...

Your bars look wonderful! I wish I could try that middle layer!

MeetaK said...

loving the flavors in this one aparna! looks great!

Mary said...

Pistachio and saffron sounds delicious, and certainly made for a beautiful colour filling! I made my filling a bit less sweet too. I love digestives and graham crackers, so I was happiest with that part of the challenge. Can't wait to see what you come up with for us next month!

Zita said...

Cute pics.... it was a little bit to sweet for my taste too, but yours look gorgeous as always :)

crumbsoflove said...

Wow, your middle layer looks gorgeous.Wish I could try one!

Suzana said...

Aparna, once again you come up with a wonderful combination of flavours! Wished I could have explored different ingredients a bit more... Plus your yellowish layer looks awesome. Well done!

Preethi Rajeev said...

Bars looks so delicious, would love to have some. First time here, loved ur blog and will be following u

dreamydelights.blogspot.com

Lauren said...

I'm so glad that the challenge was free of ingredient searching! I can only imagine the twists and variations with all of those custard powders! I especially love the flavours of the one you used =D.

You did such a wonderful job on my challenge!

Ranjani said...

Such a decadent way to start the new year-love it:)

Manggy said...

Ha! Go India! We do find CP in the Philippines too, but for some reason it didn't work when I used it (for some other thing, long ago). The bars look fab!

jayasree said...

Bars and the presentation is lovely. Liked the orange color in your bar.

bake in paris said...

Aparna, your pistachio saffron custard powder makes a wonderful nanaimo bar. Love the color of it and how it blends so well with the rest of the layers. Wonderful!

If I ever travel to India, custard powder would be one of the things I will be exploring... a wide variety of flavors, who could resist?

Sawadee from Bangkok,
Kris

s said...

Love ur post..the tips are fabulous....I used regular custard powder but urs look wonderful.
Will def call on u whn am in Panjim next!

Y said...

Love the colour of the custard layer! I did the same as you - took out some sugar from the other layers to compensate for the fact that the graham crackers were so so sweet :)

ap269 said...

What a cool idea to make an Indian-flavored custard - so you have a regional Nanaimo bar ;o). I stuck with the original version because I wasn't courageous enough to change the recipe (having never made nanaimo bars before). Glad I found your blog because I tried to make naan bread the other day which my whole family (hubby and 3 little kids) was raving about (you can read about in on my blog). Anyways, I didn't have any accompanying dishes then, so for next time when I make naan bread I'll browse your blog and choose a dish from there.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

I love your custard flavor - sounds delightful! And your photo is great. I too loved these bars - although they were addictive!

Anjana Sivaraman said...

This is a wonderful recipe. Thanks! I was wondering would you know how to make a eggless pate a choux. I have tried it many time and have not been real successful.

Ramya Vijaykumar said...

Its been Nanaimo bars throughout the blogsphere, nice pics the miniature ones ;) love the orange color while it was yellow everywhere else!!!

Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

Aparna~ your Nanaimo Bars are just so pretty! I love all your photos and the color is so unique! :)

culinography said...

Positively beautiful!

Anita said...

Good tips. I had never heard of these before - it was a great choice for our challenge.

Lisa said...

Aparna, when I first saw your bars at the DK forum and I thought..beautiful! I love how you made them nice and thin - the perfect amount of 'Nanaimo', in my opinion. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos too:)

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" said...

Aparna, you're Nanaimo bars turned out so beautifully. I have to admit to using your version as my standard when I made my own. Thanks for the inspiration!

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Cham said...

The middle color is just impressive! I am not big fan of digestive crackers! But the pieces are gorgeous!

Sara said...

Gorgeous! Love the orange color in the middle layer, and the flavor sounds fantastic! :)

andaoana said...

They look so nice. Wonderful job!

Hannah said...

Love the unique flavorings (and color!) you chose. I can't even begin to imagine what this tastes like, as I've never even heard of your secret ingredient before, so I think I'll just have to taste for myself... ;)

Eat4Fun said...

A very colorful and delicious looking Nanaimo bar. The saffron and pistachio sound like a wonderful combination. Also, you have some great tips I could have used - for easier unmolding, use cling film to line the baking dish. That would have saved me a lot of aggravation when I was trying to cut those bars!

madcapcupcake said...

Gorgeous job!! LOVE the colour :)

Aparna said...

Thanks everyone for taking time to leave your comments here and spurring me on to get more daring. :)

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

Yayyy India! Lol! Great choice with the flavor! The bars look great :)