The World Comes to Canada-The Daring Bakers bake nanaimo bars (January 2010)

by Sunita on January 27, 2010

Before you know it, a year has gone by and a new one has already begun to progress at lightning speed. So many things to be done and so little time! It seems just the other day that I looked up the Daring Bakers challenge for the month of January, and lo and behold, the posting date is upon us. I had made a part of the challenge a while ago but assembled the final product just yesterday. The pictures had to be taken too, and I was nearly running out of time. But I did it and the outcome is ready to be shown to the world.

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

As Lauren says, “the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are coming! Being in Canada, I am very thrilled to see them (even just on TV!). In a way to welcome everyone to Canada, we will be making Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bar.

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Nah-nye-Moh. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country”.

The other part of the challenge was that we were going gluten free.As Lauren says, ”Considering I have Celiac and can’t digest gluten, I thought it would be fun to teach everyone how to bake gluten free, if they’d like.”

I had almost given up hope on going gluten free ( we were allowed to use wheat) due to time restrictions, when my eyes caught this pack of gluten free  flour blend (Rice, Potato, Tapioca, Maize & Buckwheat) in one of our local supermarkets. I picked it up as quickly as I saw it and smiled all the way home. The crackers were quickly made and half were eaten already by the all too eager kids and the hubby, before the nanaimo bars were made. I had actually pushed the making of these bars, as I found the huge quantity of butter and sugar a bit scary. But, I did want to make something to keep up the first daring bakers challenge of the year. So, I got out my tiniest bowls (2 inches in diameter) and made two mini round ones instead of squares. A pattern of  a maple leaf on top of each, with dusted icing sugar, and I was all set.

The following is the recipe that we had to follow-

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract

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 (I cut mine into rounds). 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

For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) 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.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.


  • These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.
  • The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  • If making the graham crackers with wheat, replace the gluten-free flours (tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, and sorghum flour) with 2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp of all-purpose wheat flour, or wheat pastry flour. Watch the wheat-based graham wafers very closely in the oven, as they bake faster than the gluten-free ones, sometimes only 12 minutes.
  • For the Nanaimo Bars, if making with wheat, replace the gluten-free graham wafer crumbs with equal parts wheat graham wafer crumbs!

What I did-

  • I must admit that I did reduce the sugar and butter quite a bit. In fact , for the crackers, as well for each layer of the nanaimo bars, I used half the mentioned sugar and butter. I also needed more milk for the dough.
  • I made all the crackers but just two small 2 inch round nanaimo bars.
  • I used cashew nuts instead of almonds, in the bottom layer of the bars.
  • As there was a Canadian theme running through the challenge, I added a pattern of a maple leaf on top of each, with some dusted icing sugar.

This was a really straightforward challenge. The crackers , as well as the bars were made without a hitch. Everything came together very smoothly. The dough was rolled out like a dream and the crackers came out of the oven, smelling and tasting great. I’m definitely going to make them again.  Dinesh and the kids just couldn’t have enough of them.

As for the nanaimo bars, it really helped that I made them quite small. And even the tiny pieces were way too rich. So, no, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I will making these bars again, in a hurry.

Just a tiny piece for me, thank you.

Thanks , Lauren, for hosting, the crackers have definitely won us over.

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarka January 27, 2010 at 1:04 am

I’ve read about these on Deeba’s blog a while ago. They look absolutely delicious. I like the sugar leaf on top of yours! ;) Great photos, I’d love to grab that tiny piece right from my screen!


2 Sharmilee January 27, 2010 at 4:21 am

They look soo nice that dont feel like eating them at all, they are simply adorable!


3 Mary January 27, 2010 at 5:24 am

Your mini Nanaimo circles are very cute! It’s good that you made them so small, since you weren’t a fan. I’m glad the crackers worked for you and that everyone liked them. I gave most of mine away, but am still eating the graham crackers at every opportunity.


4 Asha@FSK January 27, 2010 at 5:30 am

Gorgeous! Yep, the richness threw me off a bit too.. so I just made a lighter version of it.. and my secret is to give away most of what I made, so I don’t feel guilty.. hehe..

btw your grahams are gorgeous!! they look like shortbreads!!!


5 Barbara Bakes January 27, 2010 at 5:41 am

Love your round grahams and your bars! The maple leaf is a great touch!


6 sheba January 27, 2010 at 7:16 am

oh my..urs look perfect……..the best ive seen so far!


7 Divina January 27, 2010 at 7:36 am

I love these nanaimo bars. Your presentation is superb. I always see them in rectangles. :D


8 The Cooking Ninja January 27, 2010 at 7:41 am

I love your mini ones. Wish I have thought of it. Then again, I don’t have any small cups or thing at home to make something small. Good job done there. :)


9 chef_d January 27, 2010 at 8:05 am

pretty presentation of nanaimo bars!


10 Karen January 27, 2010 at 8:19 am

These are just too cute! I think with these nanaimo bars, smaller is definitely better!


11 Sarah, Maison Cupcake January 27, 2010 at 8:39 am

Great round Nanaimos, they look like little cheesecakes. I wouldn’t mind knowing where you got that gluten free flour blend from as I struggled to find the sorghum so didn’t use gluten free ingredients incase it didn’t work out with only the rice flour that I had. And this month was my first DB effort so I didn’t want a disaster on my hands!


12 Happy Cook January 27, 2010 at 8:44 am

Wow i have never heard of this , it looks so so difficult to make with all the layers.


13 zorra January 27, 2010 at 9:09 am

Lovely Nanaimo Bars, well done!


14 Jyoti January 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

Lovely pictures! I am craving for it!


15 Graziana January 27, 2010 at 10:47 am

They look so cute and tasty! I love the maple leaf decoration


16 AP269 January 27, 2010 at 10:48 am

Oh, these nanaimo circles look so cute. I like that idea. Mine turned out great, too, and I’m happy I went for the gluten-free version. The crackers were divine!


17 George@CulinaryTravels January 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

They look fabulous Sunita. Love the circles. I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge.


18 shama January 27, 2010 at 1:03 pm

yummy ones


19 Priya January 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Wow wat a beautiful nanaimo bars, lovely work..


20 Winnie January 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Lovely post! Your bars are beautiful and I adore the photos.


21 Nina January 27, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Looks fabulous.Mine turned out to be very sweet.Loved the idea of round shaped ones.Great Pics as always!


22 Rosa January 27, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Nice shape and perfect layers!




23 Meeta January 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm

sunita these look incredible love the round shape. i loved the crackers the best LOL!


24 tia January 27, 2010 at 7:17 pm

i love the amount of filling. it looks lucsious.


25 Lauren January 27, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed my challenge! Your wafers look simply sensational and the maple leaf is such a sweet touch =D.


26 Kitchen Butterfly January 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm

They look lovely….I so feel like making them now!!!!!!!


27 deeba January 28, 2010 at 2:14 am

NICE…I love them. Love it that you went the circular route too. They do look YUM, and Sunita, I think you could afford a whole one!! With someone as not so slim as you (yours truly), I certainly couldn’t afford too…but I indulged!


28 Mallini January 28, 2010 at 3:27 am

They look fantastic! I like the idea of molding them in bowls, and the maple leaf on top is just precious. :-)


29 Aparna January 28, 2010 at 5:40 am

Your mini Nanaimos look cute. Love the pretty crackers and the maple leaf design’s perfect. Yes, the butter in this one scared me a bit too. :)


30 shaz January 28, 2010 at 12:35 pm

These are so very pretty! How gorgeous. These bars certainly set the sweet tooths apart from the non-sweet tooths huh? I was actually contemplating making a tiny one too because, like you, I worried about the butter and sugar. Glad I ended up making the whole lot though because I obviously have a sweet tooth :) Good on you for making them , I think that was the “daring” part this month, overcoming the butter and sugar fear he he he he…


31 diva January 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm

beautiful Sunita! round and adorable and very delicious I bet :) hope all’s well in your new home. Glad to see you back on Twitter!!


32 fairy_mi January 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm

These Nanaimo bars desserts are so beautiful-
What a great version for the Canadian bars
Love the presentation!
(also a DB)


33 Lindsay January 28, 2010 at 4:35 pm

So pretty as rounds – you did a great job!!!


34 Deepa G Joshi January 28, 2010 at 7:31 pm

these look so delectable..too good presentation..all the diets are blown up.


35 Poonam January 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm

They look so good!


36 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella January 29, 2010 at 12:11 am

Fantastic job Sunita! I like the individual serves-it’s portion controlling them as well as looking elegant! :D


37 Ivonne January 29, 2010 at 2:58 am

Hi Sunita! I definitely know that feeling of time speeding by! Wow! Your bars are just gorgeous and I love that icing sugar flag!


38 Sophie January 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Thanks for the kind welcome!

Ok, so I’m already hooked. I have just spent ages looking at your blog. I LOVE IT. I definitely hope to try out some of your recipes over time!

And I love your bars too, of course! Wonderful presentation :)


39 Lisa January 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm, such beautiful, baby bowls of Nanaimo! Great idea to keep the size and portion small. I was initially going to try little truffles aka Nanaimo balls, but I didn’t plan it out. Speaking of ‘baby’, how is your little bun coming along? If I’m not mistaken, I recall reading that you were expecting! *hugs*


40 Sunita January 29, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Thabks Lisa, for your sweet words. Yes, smaller portions are the way to go with rich desserts. As for the ”baby”, I have no idea where you heard it, but I’m certainly not ”expecting” . I’ve got two already ( 8 and 7 years, and they are more than enough for me ;-)


41 Natalie January 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm

You did a fabulous job on your Nanaimo bars. Gorgeous presentation too!

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go


42 Jeanne @ Cooksister! February 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Oh Sunita – those look so good! And I love the maple leaf motif you have used everywhere…


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