My Daring Bakers Challenge: Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars

by Lauren | Celiac Teen on January 27, 2010

Yes.  You read that right.  This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge, the first one in the new decade, was hosted by yours truly.  There are no words to express how excited I was when Lis and Ivonne first asked me.  My mind raced: it had to be gluten-free (or a straight forward way to do so), the Olympics were coming up, I wanted it to be Canadian, I wanted it to be something I loved, I wanted it to be something I missed.

After lots of searching, I thought of Nanaimo Bars.  They are quintessentially Canadian.  I hadn’t had one since being diagnosed with celiac disease.  But, they are pretty straightforward.  They also contain graham wafers. Those are something I miss immensely.  They were always in our cupboard; a favourite snack, a not-too-sweet dessert, a filler in so many recipes.  So, I decided that we should make those as well.  After all, I would have to anyways =D.

Best of all, Nanaimo (pronounced Nah-nye-Moh) is in British Colombia!  Vancouver, where the 2010 Winter Olympics are being held, is also in BC.  They’re actually not too far apart!  Speaking of the Olympics, I can’t wait to see them unfold and to watch the world as it comes to Canada.

Nanaimo Bar 1

Now, because the group is so large, it would be impossible for everyone to make them gluten-free, but the recipe was provided both ways to make it simple.

You have no idea how exciting (nerve-wracking, hunger-inducing, happy-making) this whole process was.  Not only being asked, but finding the perfect recipe and watching the beautiful Daring Bakers make their creations.  Thank you to Lis and Ivonne, and thank you to everyone who made the recipes.  Even if you didn’t enjoy it, I am honoured that you tried =D.  And now, to the awesomeness that is going to be across the blogosphere:

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

Now, because you know me so well, it’s photo time.  Then I’ll give you the uber-long recipe and possibly a shout-out to the Haiti ebook I am putting together (which should hopefully be for sale within the week =D).


They can cook fairly quickly.  These grahams (fantastic delicious grahams) were cooked at the same time.  Don’t sweat it if they’re not unbelievably gorgeous.  Its okay.  Promise.


Shoo!  My little brother couldn’t keep his hands off of them.  Get away!
(Or give them to me =D).


Light, dark, its however you want.  Be sure to watch them as they cook.  It can go pretty quickly.


Lauren!  What are you doing?!?!
At least that’s what I thought.  Relax.  You need crumbs for Nanaimo Bars.  That’s how it works.


See?  The crumbs can be pretty too!
And the Nanaimo Bars.  I strongly encourage looking at some of the Daring Baker‘s incarnations of these.  They are incredibly inventive.  You will not believe some of the things they came up with!  If you’ve never had one yourself, they are a Canadian treat that is found across the country.  They have a base of graham wafer crumbs, cocoa, coconut, and nuts.  The middle layer is a custard-flavoured buttercream type layer thingy (Yes.  It has incredibly specific terms ;D).  Then a topping of chocolate.  I love it so.  Maybe you do (will?) too.




Keep melting.


See!  Just like this.


Then, the egg makes it go all funny.  That’s completely normal.  Just stir it up.


Why hello there graham wafer crumbs/coconut/almonds.  Nice to see you!


Chocolate egg mixture + graham wafer crumb mixture = easy mixture to press.  Go on.  You can press it into the pan.


Ta-da!  Simple as can be.


Say hello to Bird’s.  That would be how the custard-flavoured buttercream type layer thingy gets its custard flavour.  Of course, you can play with the flavours if you prefer.


Icing sugar makes a thick mixture.  It even held my spatula up.


Spread it.


Melt some chocolate with butter.  Dream of faraway lands where everything is chocolate-coated.  This photo has a pool of chocolate, that I wish I could dive into.  But wait!  Don’t eat it yet.  We have bigger better things in store for it.


Spread.  Refrigerate.  Wait.  Wait.


At least that’s what I did.  I’ve heard that some find this too sweet.  Having grown up on them, I think I’m immune ;D.


Okay, so mine may not be the prettiest out there (and now, there are quite a few out there!!), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great.  Try ’em.  It couldn’t hurt.  Just know that they are rich.  A 2-inch square is plenty.

As promised, the recipes.  Complete with tips and tricks!

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

Preparation time:
Graham Wafers: 30 to 45 minutes total active prep, 2 ½ hours to overnight and 45 minutes inactive prep.
Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.

Equipment required:
Food Processor
Parchment paper or silpats
Cookie sheets
Double boiler or pot and heatproof bowl
8 by 8 inch square pan
Hand mixer or stand mixer (You may use a wooden spoon, but this makes it much easier!)

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.  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 much less time, 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.
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.
Additional Information:
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.  Mine lasted about that long.
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!
And, some Links:

Information on Celiac Disease:

Information on Vancouver 2010:

City of Nanaimo:

Gluten Free Flour Information:

Video on making Nanaimo bars:

Recipe and video for Vegan Nanaimo Bars (you didn’t think I’d leave you guys out?):

Recipe for gluten-free and vegan Graham Wafers:

So, thats all.  My challenge is complete.  I don’t know what else there is to say but Thanks for trying, listening and letting me be your host.  It is a great honour, and by all calculations I’m the youngest host there has been, which I think is pretty darn cool!

Just one more thing…



Welcome to Canada!  I hope that these Olympics are some of the best yet!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TaGa_Luto February 25, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Hi, Lauren! I made Nanaimo bars, it was worth it. Thanks for this recipe. If you have time checkout my version. . See you soon for the DC Challenge!

Evelyne @ CheapEthniEatz February 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm
The Whalen Family April 1, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I made your grahm crackers last night….FANTASTIC! They are the best I have made yet. One day I will get to the bars as they look delicious-but for now, we are grateful for your delicious grahm recipe. Keep up the good work!

Kate May 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I made gf nanaimo bars with oats instead of graham crackers (I know some people are sensitive to oats, but I bought the gf variety and was fine :)) and it worked great too as a good variation! I could hardly tell the difference.

Looking forward to trying out your recipe!

Leave a Comment

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: