Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nanaimo Spoons

Before I started to read food blogs I had never heard of Nanaimo Bars. Before this month I had never eaten one either. Now, not only I ate Nanaimo Bars, but I’ve also eaten Nanaimo Spoons…

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.

Lets start with the Graham Crackers, one of the components of the bars/ spoons. I’ve made homemade graham crackers before, but I’d have to say I liked these ones better! Plus these are graham crackers feet, and that makes them even cooler!

Gluten-Free Graham Crackers
  • 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

* I didn’t make mine gluten-free, so I’ve used the same amount of wheat floor (half AP, half whole wheat).

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. 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. 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. 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. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). 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. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows. 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. 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.

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) 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)
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've pressed my mixture into spoons.

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

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
  • 4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

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

Here they are: the spoons ready to be eaten! I had some graham crackers crumbs left so I’ve sprinkle them on top.

I’ve also made some real Nanaimo Bars, just so I could eat a real one. The bars were nice, but the spoons were so much funnier!

Open your mouth! And go check the other Daring Bakers!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A “bite” of Tunisia

Here I am back from lovely Tunisia! Lovely, lovely…

Lovely landscapes…

Lovely monuments and ruins…

Remember I told you I went to visit a friend? What I didn’t tell you is that my friend works as a head chef in a 5 star hotel in Tunis.

This is Walid, the hotel's pastry chef. I had vip access to the pastry kitchen and got to taste some yummy stuff. Oh yes, lucky me!

I also ate a lot of local food! Gotta love that Coke in arabiac …

And tea… I drank a lot of tea! This one is green tea with pine nuts. Amazing stuff!

They love tea, this is where locals drink theirs. It was inside a market.

And this was the market itself, such a fun place to visit...

... or to buy food. I have no idea what this guy was selling but it must have been good since everyone was buying it. It looked like a huge thick pancake.

Instead of the funny looking pancake I bought some traditional sweets. I bought sweets, what a surprise!...

One of my favorite parts of the vacations was having dinner at Walid’s house (the pastry chef) with his family. Homey traditional tunisian food! And how cool is their living room?

And when I say food, I mean lots of it! Salad, fish, cannelloni with harissa, couscous…

And because I was not tired of local food, the next day I went to a local market. Don't you just love to visit markets when you're abroad?

But besides all they food, I loved their doors. I have tons of pictures of doors.

I really loved their doors! So much in fact, I wanted to bring this one home with me. Unfortunately it didn’t fit my suitcase…

Good thing the traditional sweets were small and did fit my bags. Hummm let’s see, how many of each will I take?

Aren't they gorgeous? And how much patience do you have to have to place each pistachio and pine nuts like that?

I’m not sure if I’ll recreate these at home but I did buy some specific ingredients, I can’t wait to give them a go! But now I'll have to go back to real life...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sponge cake waffles

What to do when your cake batter doesn’t fit all in the cake pan?

Of course, the most logical thing would be to do some cupcakes or even a mini cake in a smaller pan. That’s what I usually do anyway. But this time, when left with some sponge cake batter, my waffle iron started calling me. I’m not rude, so I answered.

This is a very easy and basic recipe for sponge cake. To tell you the truth I usually use my grandma’s sponge cake recipe but this is the one I used for the cake I was making, and so for the waffles. It actually worked pretty well.

BASIC SPONGE CAKE
  • 3 eggs
  • 90 gr (3 oz) sugar
  • 90 gr (3 oz) flour

Whip the eggs and sugar until they double their volume and are very foamy. Add the flour and mix delicately. Bake in a 180ºC (350ºF) pre heated oven.

To make the waffles, just dump the batter into the hot waffle iron. Make sure to spray it or brush it with some oil or butter, since there’s no fat in the batter (except for the yolks).

This was probably the end of my “leftover cake batter cupcakes”, I rather have “leftover cake batter waffles” instead! They were good! I enjoyed mine with honey and even made a wee sandwich with jam that was quite nice! And I don’t even like jam that much…

I’m pretty much sure they don’t eat much waffles in Tunisia, but I’ll let you know what they do eat, since that’s where I’m heading tomorrow. I’m going to spend a few days in Tunis with a friend that lives there. Couscous here I go!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A new year filled with love, joy and… chocolate!

So we’ve made it to 2010! It’s a little bit like living in the future, isn’t it?

Speaking of future, I hope this future year is filled with good thing for all: love, joy and... chocolate. Just like these cookies!

These are the famous 1 million dollar cookies that won the last Pillsbury contest. But these ones, beside the peanut butter filling also have some chocolate love. If the original ones were worth 1 million dollars, these are easily worth 2 million!

You can check the original recipe here. That recipe uses refrigerated peanut butter dough, but I’ve used my favourite peanut butter cookie recipe instead. Besides this, my only change was adding some chopped dark chocolate in the middle of the peanut butter filling.

If eating a cookie like that is not a great way to start a year I don’t know what is!