Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jan 27, 2010: Daring Bakers' Knockout Gluten

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

Mandatory for this challenge:
1/ Make graham wafers. And the optional challenge will be about learning the chemistry of gluten-free flours and seeing how sometimes a restriction can make the end-product even more exciting!

2/ The second mandatory facet to this challenge is that 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 Bars.

[As usual, my comments are in red: One reason I joined the Daring Bakers was to learn new techniques and try out new flavors. For that reason, I'm trying something new and making the gluten-free version of this recipe.

Also, see Lauren's blog, Celiac Teen, for more gluten-free tips.]

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. I used to buy them at the grocery store before going gluten-free.

Recipe Source: Graham Wafers — 101 Cookbooks ( I adapted it to be gluten-free. The adapted recipe is below.

Nanaimo Bars — City of Nanaimo (

Notes for gluten-free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars:
• Glutinous rice flour does not contain any gluten, as it is made from a type of rice called glutinous (or sweet) rice.

• The graham wafer dough is very sticky. Make sure you are flouring (with sweet rice flour) well, or the dough will be difficult to remove from the surface you roll it out on. Also be sure to keep it cold. You do not want the butter to melt.

• I chose these flours because of their availability. Tapioca starch/flour and sweet rice flour can often be found in Asian grocery stores, or in the Asian section of you grocery store. Sorghum can be slightly more difficult to find, but it can be replaced with brown rice flour, millet flour or other alternatives.

• In the Nanaimo Bars, it is very important that the chocolate be cool but still a liquid, otherwise the custard layer will melt, and it will mix with the chocolate, being difficult to spread. Allow the chocolate mixture to come to room temperature but not solidify before spreading the top layer on.

• If making them gluten-free, no wheat, barley, rye, triticale, kamut, spelt, durum, semolina, or other gluten containing ingredients may be used. Removing those ingredients ensures it is safe for those with Celiac Disease and other health issues where gluten causes problems. If you do plan on serving this to someone on a gluten-free diet, also ensure no cross-contamination occurs.

[Here are the products that are unique to this challenge.
The sorghum flour was the most expensive at $3.50 a bag. I could have tried searching harder to find this product in bulk, but I didn't have the time. The glutinous rice flour and the tapioca starch are easily found in Asian markets, plus they are very inexpensive $0.89 and less, if you go to a large chain Asian market.]

[It's difficult to see, but in the upper left white powder is the tapioca starch - which was very much like corn starch being smooth, finely ground and silky. The upper right powder is the glutinous rice flour. The grind is similar to flour. One the bottom third of the image is the sorghum flour. The grind is similar to whole wheat flour.]

Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
[I made a half recipe of Graham wafers which turned out to be enough to make the full Nanaimo recipe.]
1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour) [70 g]
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour [50 g]
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour [33 g]
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed [100g]
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda [1/2 t]
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt [1/4 t plain salt]
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen) [50 g]
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover. [2T and 2t]
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk [2 1/2 T]
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract [1T]


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.

[I followed the direction and did freeze the butter. However, in hindsight, I could have just used cold butter for easier processing.]

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.

[As described in step 2, the mixture is quite sticky and wet]

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.

[Surprisingly, by generously coating the dough with glutinous rice flour, helped immensely to prevent sticking to counter, but I had my bench scraper handy when needed.]

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. 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.

[The dough was cut into 4" x 4" squares - approximately since they're more rectangular than square... lol.]

Also, note the neat new silicone baking mat I received for my b-day from my bro and sister in-law. Also, a handy-dandy bench scraper I received from S for X-mas. I'm ready for baking challenges in 2010! :-) ]

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.

[The recipe was spot on with the baking time, 25 minutes. I baked10 mins and rotated for another 10 minute baking. The dough was still a little soft so baked 5 more minutes. This did the trick. The cookie firmed up.]

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.

Making the 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 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.

[I found it easier and cleaner to use a Ziploc as a glove while pressing the bottom layer into the 8 by 8. The layer was chilled while I finished the middle and top layers.]

Middle Layer
- A buttercream frosting
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.) [I used Jell-O Instant Pudding which uses no wheat products so it's gluten-free.]
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

[The middle layer is just a buttercream frosting... which I spread across the bottom layer.]

Top Layer - a chocolate layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

[The final layer! Whoo-hooo!]

[After the final layer was applied, the Nanaimo was covered with cling wrap and refrigerated overnight.]

Finished Product:
After refrigerating overnight, the bars where cut and dished out.
The recipe called for an ungreased 8 x 8 so extracting the bars from the dish was tricky since the bottom layer is sticky.

The bars turned out nicely - a bit sweet for me, but I don't really like sweets. The bottom layer was chewy, but full of chocolate and coconut flavor. The middle was firm, but melted easily in my mouth. The top layer is chocolate. You can't go wrong with chocolate! :-)

The best thing is that you can't tell this is a gluten-free recipe. It has all the fat, flavor and sugar of a regular wheat flour recipe.

Thank you Lauren for providing us a gluten-free recipe.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jan 14, 2010: Daring Cooks - Meat on a Stick

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

This month's challenge is brought to us from Cuppy of Cuppylicious.

Her challenge this month is "meat on a stick" which is better known as Satay.
The recipe is based upon cleverly titled book called “1000 Recipes” by Martha Day. Yes, the very British Martha Day has a very British interpretation of a classic Thai dish.

Satay (or sate) is very often served as “street fare” all over the world, and you dip your cool little meat skewer into any variety of dipping sauces. In the US, Cuppy proud to say, we created the coolest and tastiest satay on the planet – the all-American corn dog. Hooray for the USA! Love me some corndogs.

1.Use any meat or tofu you like.
2.Serve satay as an appetizer, side dish or main course.
3.Skewer or no skewer, your call.
4.Pan fry, grill, or broil, also your call.
5.Alternative recipe below for faster marinade.
6.Alternative recipe below for peanut allergies.
7.You don’t have to use turmeric if you don’t have it. In the case of satay, turmeric just makes it yellow. Har har.
8.Marinate (verb) – to steep (to wet thoroughly in or with a liquid; drench; saturate; imbue) in a marinade before cooking.

The required part of this challenge is to marinate. Marinades serve two purposes, to: 1) add awesome flavor and 2) tenderize tougher meats.

The key to a great marinade is to have an acid (lemon, lime, brine, soy, vinegar, etc) and an oil (peanut, vegetable, corn, olive, etc). If you’re already working with a soft meat (filet mignon) or vegetable (capsicum) or tofu, then you can skip the oil entirely. Potatoes and tofu still need to be marinated for flavor, otherwise you may as well dip French fries in catsup. If you're going to grill, I suggest you include the oil anyway.

[My comments are in red... For this month's challenge, I picked the pork as my meat of choice for the Satay.]

Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce
Satay Marinade

1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T ginger root, chopped
2 T lemon juice
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 T vegetable oil
1 pound of pork

1. If you have a food processor or blender, dump in everything except the pork and blend until smooth.

Note: I forget to add the turmeric.

2. Cut pork into 1 inch strips. [The 1" strips were about 1/4 inch thick]

3. Cover pork with marinade. You can place the pork into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the whole lot of it into a ziplock bag, seal and chill.

[I forgot the turmeric... it wasn't until later that I added to the Ziploc and kneaded the turmeric into the meat.]

[The pork was marinaded 24 hours and skewered right before cooking.]

Cooking Directions [I used my trusty George Foreman Grill and as an alternate a grill pan]:

4. Cook in the George Foreman about 7 minutes total time.

Note: The GFG cooks about 3 skewers at a time. This is a bottleneck in the whole process so I pulled out the grill pan to speed up the whole process.

For the Grill pan, about 5 to 7 and flip the skewer to cook the other side for another 5 to 7 minutes.

Peanut Sauce
3/4 cup coconut milk
4 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped

1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and lemon, mix well.

2. Over low heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter and your soy-lemon-seasoning mix. Mix well, stir often.

[I toasted two chile pods and kept them whole.]

3. All you’re doing is melting the peanut butter, so make your peanut sauce after you’ve made everything else in your meal, or make ahead of time and reheat.

Finished Results:

The Satay/"meat on a stick" was served family-style - over a bed of rice, spinach and peanut sauce. Extra peanut sauce was served on the side for those who wanted more.

I was tempted to make this dish more Thai-like by adding fish sauce in lieu of the soy sauce. However, I stuck with the recipe.

The flavor was very lemony [I like lemony!], but not overpowering with the cumin (which can smell like a stinky sock.)

My one problem was cutting the pork thinly (like I've seen in local restaurants) resulted in meat that was a little dry (just like the local restaurants).

A lesson learned is to try cutting the meat a little thicker and maybe using a fattier cut of pork.

Overall, the results were delicious.

Thanks Cuppy for the challenge.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jan 10, 2010: Looking for Baldy

The local news mentioned bald eagles are wintering along the Skagit River and snatching salmon out of the river.

What does that mean?

A Road trip!

General Bald Eagle Information:
Driving Directions and Map:

A very scenic drive!

That's a lot of trees!

Majestic snowcapped mountains along the route.

It ain't a mountain unless there's snow on the peaks. lol!

We stopped off in a Sedro-Woolley for breakfast at a local restaurant. Actually, I had breakfast while everyone else had lunch.

Lumber is a major industry in Washington.
When you have lumber, a chainsaw and creativity, chainsaw wood carving is the next logical step.

One angry bear!

Even the details inside this angry bear is amazing!
Glad this guy is only a carving. I forgot my bear spray!

Finally made it to Milepost 100 along Highway 20.

No eagles swooping down along the river.
They were roosting and digesting their food from earlier in the day.

My point and shoot just doesn't have the zoom, but you can see the bald head! lol!

Volunteers set up spotting scopes... I'm not sure how to set my P&S to snap pictures through a telescope, but here's what I got which looked better in person.

A fun and scenic drive.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jan 4 2010: Happy New Year!

Okay... so it's after the new year and I'm back dating this post. The sentiment remains the same, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

A common New Year's resolution is to lose weight.
I should lose weight too, but I resolve NOT to resolve to lose weight.
Keeping in the spirit of doing the anti-resolution, I'm going to make butter-laden croissants!

The idea of making croissants came when I was watching the movie, It's Complicated. There was a scene where chocolate croissants were made which kicked off a craving.

I've never made croissant, but know that they are classified as a laminated dough. I've made puff pastry in Daring Baker's Challenge: September 2009 Challenge so croissants seem like the logical next step.

The recipe is based upon Esther McManus's recipe in Baking with Julia.
Video: Esther McManus makes croissants with Julia Child.
Recipe: Croissant Recipe

In hindsight, I highly recommend watching the video and reading the recipe instruction thoroughly. My approach was to just go for it. However, the video and recipe instructions contain some tips that I could have used when I was making the dough.

As usual with a new recipe, I halved the quantities. Also, I made substitutions and modifications since this was a spur of the moment thing. For the full recipe with the "real" instructions see the link above.

The croissant recipe is about a two day process.
1/2 t Instant Yeast
1 3/4 C (235 g) All Purpose
2 1/2 T Sugar
1 t Salt
1/2 C Milk (plus a little extra if needed)
2 Sticks Unsalted Butter

Chocolate Chips

Egg Wash Coating
1 large egg + 1 T water

We had just returned from holiday and our cupboards were bare.

- The original recipe called for fresh yeast. I scrounged around my pantry and found an old package of instant yeast.

- Milk was reconstituted from whole milk powder leftover from a Daring Cooks' Challenge.

What I did...
1/ Since I didn't know the viability of the yeast, I made a pre-ferment to see if the yeast was alive. Reconstitute the milk with warm water and mix in 1/2 the flour to form a wet dough. Cover and let double.

Success! The batter doubled in size so I know the yeast is doing its job.

2/ Mix the batter into the flour to make a dough. Slowly add more liquid as needed to ball the dough. Knead the dough to form a smooth ball.

3/ I'm using the technique I learned from the puff pastry challenge to form the butter pack for incorporation into the dough.

Pound the butter into, roughly, a 6" x 6" square about 3/4" thick.

Refrigerate the butter and dough, separately... overnight.

4/ The next day - roll out the dough into a rectangle. The center should be thicker than the edges.

Note: I think I over-kneaded the dough from step 3. The dough kept shrinking when I rolled it out.

5/ Wrap the butter square in the dough and slowly roll out.
I made about 6 turns (see the Puff Pastry Challenge for the definition and images of a turn).
Refrigerating 30 minutes to an hour every 2 turns.
After the final turn, refrigerate 2 hours.
Note: From the video, McManus only made 3 turns.

6/ I cut the croissant dough in half (just in case I mess up) and rolled into a rectangle. The other half went back into the fridge for later...

Note: I wasn't sure how to form the croissants. I should have watched the McManus video.

Plain Croissants

Chocolate Croissants - a couple fingers of chocolate chips (about 1 or 2 T)

7/ After rolling let the croissant proof for about 2 to 3 hours.

8/ Bake 350 F for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Hmmm... Butter is oozing out of the croissants. I only proofed this batch for 30 minutes.

The Finished Results
Batch 1:
Flavor is very nice - buttery, slightly salty and sweet.
Texture - The interior is a little dense (bummer!) The exterior is crunchy as if it was deep fried. I think the butter oozing out created a crunchy exterior. I actually like the crunchiness. It wasn't very croissant-like, more like a dense, flaky biscuit, but I like the crunchy texture.

Batch 2: {No images taken}
The next day I baked off the second half of the dough.
This time I proofed the dough about 3 hours before baking.

The results turned out much better... No butter leakage and the end result were more croissant like - softer interior and flaky exterior.

Lessons Learned:
1) Read the instructions. I know I keep telling myself to do that, but sometimes I just fly by the seat of my pants.

2) Minimize kneading and liquid added. Rereading the recipe, the liquid to flour ratio is about 53% and I was around 60%.

3) Proof 2 to 3 hours before baking. Based on my second batch, the longer proof seemed to prevent the butter leakage I seen in the first batch. Also, it seemed to improve the interior texture of the croissant, which makes sense since the yeast will have a long time to leaven the dough.