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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Daring Bakers - Nanaimo Bars

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.

This month's challenge was my first one in quite a while, and, well...I cheated, not to mention that I'm posting late. I didn't get a chance to make the graham wafers (and couldn't have done the gluten-free version anyway since I couldn't find the flours I needed in one store and wasn't going to haul a toddler & infant all over town to find what I needed). So, I used pre-made graham wafers in the Nanaimo Bars. I did, however, gain a better understanding of how much of a pain-in-the-rear cooking and baking are for those who must adhere to a gluten-free diet. (And also how expensive it is...non-wheat flours are pricy!) I do want to make the graham wafers (using whole wheat pastry flour) since I cannot find a brand in the store that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. I'll post it here when I do make them, but meanwhile, on to the Nanaimo Bars.

My guinea pigs guests, loved these. They are very rich due to all the butter. I thought they were good, but they weren't outstanding. The bottom layer was my favorite part. I'm glad I toasted the coconut and almonds, but I think the ratios should have been reversed. In fact, if I had doubled the amounts for the bottom layer (except the coconut) and just left it at that, I think I would have liked them much better. My husband wasn't a huge fan either, so the plan is to re-work the recipe and make it minty (and without the coconut, of course). Here's the recipe as I made it.

Nanaimo Bars

For Bottom Layer

1/2 cup unsalted Butter

1/4 cup granulated Sugar

5 Tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/4 cups Graham Wafer Crumbs (about 8 pre-made whole crackers)

1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped (I used slivered & toasted them)

1 cup coconut, shredded (I used sweetened & toasted it)

For Middle Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream

2 Tablespoons Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted - I used SF French Vanilla)

2 cups icing/confectioner's sugar

For Top Layer

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

2 Tablespoons 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.
(Chill thoroughly.)
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, spread over middle layer and chill.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Two-Toned Fudge

I know the holidays are over. Resolutions have been made. And broken. Or some perhaps kept thus far. But you really should try this fudge.

It's a classic combo of chocolate and peanut butter, so you know it's going to be delicious. I also really liked the texture of the fudge; the chocolate part melts in your mouth while the peanut butter layer has a bit more 'chew' to it. You could call this Reese's PB Cup Fudge I suppose. If you're a fudge lover, nota bene - this is addictive. Just make it for a gathering, and you'll be good to go.

Two Toned Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I used semisweet)
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 7 ounce jar marshmallow cream
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Line an 8" X 8" pan with foil.

In 2 separate heat-safe medium bowls, place 1 cup peanut butter chips in one and chocolate chips in the other.

In a heavy 3 quart sauce pan, combine sugar, marshmallow creme, evaporated milk and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils; boil and stir 5 minutes. Remove from heat and quickly stir in vanilla.

Working safely, but quickly, stir one-half of the hot mixture into peanut butter chips and the other half into the chocolate chips. Stir the peanut butter mixture until fully melted and quickly pour into prepared pan.

Stir the chocolate chips mixture until fully melted and carefully spread over top of peanut butter layer.

Let sit at room temperature until completely cool. Cut into small squares.

Recipe from Culinary in the Desert

Monday, January 11, 2010

Best Granola Ever

I did not grow up being a fan of granola. Nor do I particularly like the stuff you can buy in the store. But this. Oh, this granola is wonderful. It's not too sweet, has just the right amount of crunch/chew, and it's great on its own, with milk or yogurt, or as a topping for just about anything. I adapted the original recipe a bit, and for our family, it's just perfect. Feel free to change up the fruit or nuts to whatever suits your taste.

Best Granola Ever

1/2 cup honey (if you are using a honey that has crystallized, just melt it for a few seconds)
1/3 cup canola oil
6 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 1/4 cups chopped nuts of your choice ( I use equal parts walnuts & slivered almonds)
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped (~6 apricots)
1/4 cup prunes chopped (~8 prunes)
1/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350° and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment or a silpat

Combine the honey, oil, water and vanilla, set aside.
Toss together all of the dry ingredients except the dried fruits.

Add the honey mixture and toss/stir until the oats are well covered.

Spread the granola over two rimmed baking sheets in a thin, even layer.

Total baking time will be 25-30 minutes. After 10 minutes toss the granola with a spoon or spatula and rotate the trays from top to bottom so they both bake evenly. Check again after another 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on it as it starts to turn brown so it doesn’t over bake. It will be a deep golden brown when it is done.

Allow the granola to cool on cooling rack and then put in a large bowl and add the dried fruit.

Recipe adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day