Recipe: Nanaimo bars and graham crackers

The end of January marks my first outing with the Daring Bakers. I am proud to have added the Daring Kitchen badge to my side bar today and hope it this month’s challenge will be the first of very many.
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

Nanaimo bars were totally new to me, I have never been to Canada, have never seen them for sale in the UK and had never previously seen them online or heard anyone talk about them. So I was very pleased that my first challenge was truly something that I would never have made by myself.

Graham Crackers, of which I have heard, but never eaten, are one of the ingredients of these Nanaimo bars. Grahams probably are sold in a few places in London but again I’ve never seen them so it was to be a new experience to me to make these.

I was delighted by all the variations of these bars shown in the Daring Baker’s forum which will shortly be available for non-Daring Bakers to see on their site

I found the crackers and bars quite straight forward to make. Something I liked about this recipe was that there were various stages where you could take a break and do the next bit the next day or next week in my case! I made my crackers at the beginning of January but didn’t finish the bars until last week. I did my bottom layer first and then the middle and top layers the following day.

We were allowed to use wheat flour if we couldn’t obtain all the gluten free ingredients and I opted to do this since I could not find sorghum.  One disappointment I had with the crackers was that they seemed to spread out a lot in the oven. The pretty pin pricks on other people’s crackers were disappearing on mine. I also halved the recipe because I didn’t want loads of crackers left and I knew that a half amount would be plenty to make the bars. This is why I don’t have many pictures of my crackers because I’d already ground most of them up into crumbs!

To present my bars, I chose to cut them into smaller cubes and spear with cocktail sticks. The bars are very sweet and I could only handle small quantities in one go. The tiny bits I tasted were very nice and have been one of the many things to tempt me this week whilst I am still steadfastly sticking to Ten in 10, the healthy goals ten week challenge spearheaded by Recipe Girl.

A big thanks to our young Canadian blogger, Lauren of Celiac Teen for hosting a wonderful challenge.  I understand she picked this recipe in honour of the Winter Olympics which are being hosted in Canada next month. I will probably still be nibbling these whilst watching two of the few sports on TV which hold any interest to me: ice dancing because it is beautiful and curling because it’s hilarious. 

Graham Crackers – Gluten Free
N.B. I used plain wheat flour instead of the gluten free flours as we were allowed to do this if we couldn’t find the specialist flours.

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 (4ml) 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 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

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)

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

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.


  1. Barbara Bakes says

    Serving them on toothpicks is a fun idea! You got some nice clean cuts and great pics! Great job on this challenge!

  2. Wic says

    congratulations on your first challenge. this looks stunning, love the presentation and the bars looks delicious.

  3. Hilary says

    I'm so excited that DB did a Canadian treat this month. Unfortunately I didn't get around to making them…

    You're an ice dancing fan? I'm a HUGE ice dancing fan! I can't wait for the Olympics :)

  4. West Essex Deli says

    I love to watch ice dancing too. It all started when I saw Torvill and Dean.

    The Nanaimo bars look delicious.

    I never saw any graham crackers for sale when I lived in Canada. What we used to get were boxes of graham cracker crumbs, which is what people used for a cheesecake base, for example. Here in the UK I would use crushed digestive biscuits.


  5. Poires au Chocolat says

    I've just joined the Daring Bakers too, and I'm from the UK too – it's nice to have found your blog :)

    They look really lovely – I really like your photos and the matchsticks are a great idea.

  6. Deeba PAB says

    UTTERLY DECADENT Sarah. You've done a marvellous job with this months challenge. Gorgeous pictures too!

  7. diva says

    love how you've cubed them and stuck them through with cocktail sticks. So tasteful and i just love the blue and white backdrop. Lovely lighting Sarah. u inspire me to improve my food photography in my cupboard-sized apartment! 😀 x

  8. Sarah, Maison Cupcake says

    @thecookingninja Thank you! And thanks for your inspiration!
    @faithy @george @faithy @sunita Thanks! Can't wait for spring light!
    @barbara Well I must admit I ate some stray crumbs to make them look tidy!!
    @wic Thank you
    @hilary @westessexdeli Yes I love watching ice dancing and yes it did all start with Torvill & Dean. I used to have lessons as a teenager, was better chasing round the rink than my school friends but never good enough to do it seriously!
    @poiresauchocolat Welcome to Maison Cupcake!
    @thingswemake Yes natural light at 3.30pm i.e. nearly dark. Used tripod.
    @deeba Thank you! I like being decadent
    @diva The backdrop is a roll of Emma Bridgewater giftwrap. Glad you like it. x

  9. powderate says

    Excellent job, lovely, great photos. It is spelled Nanimo. As a past camp cook for tree-planters, loggers, fishermen and the like, this local recipe from the town of Nanimo ( a port town located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia ) was a top favorite. I had to hide them to have any for the next day's lunch table.

    The national pastry …butter tarts, a legacy from the butter tart wars, is another yummy treat, which has let me to wonder what our national dish is?

    Doing the cracker crust this way is marvelous.

  10. Bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets) says

    Sarah these are absolutely STUNNING! Loving it all…what a beautiful job! Congrats on your first challenge looking fwd to many more xx

  11. MandyM says

    Beautifully done and lovely photos!
    Welcome to the Daring Bakers and great job on your first challenge :)

  12. Rambling Tart says

    GREAT job, Sarah! I'm Canadian and these are MUST HAVES at every Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration. :-) I love that you think curling is hilarious :-) I totally agree!

  13. deer baby says

    Another delicious looking treat. I often hear characters in US programmes talking about their crackers – bit different from our Jacobs Cream crackers though. What is kosher salt I wonder or is it obvious?

  14. MaryMoh says

    Great photos! I'm really loving this one…looks absolutely gorgeous and delicious….mmmm. Sarah, when are you opening a bakery? I can open my restaurant next to yours and we can enjoy each others food 😀

  15. Asha @ FSK says

    Love the presentation!! they look so irresistable with the toothpicks! I just want to pick one through my screen!!!

  16. Tia says

    what a cute little snack – the toothpicks just make them that much cuter. good job with this mo. challenge.

  17. Julia @Mélanger says

    Firstly, welcome to Daring Bakers. :)

    Secondly, great job on the challenge. I noticed I have the same blue square-ish plate as you. And not only that, I used it in my DB post, too! With the graham crackers on it. How funny! :)

  18. food with style says

    oh these look fantastic!

    i have a little blog where i share beautiful pics, if you would like to share yours send me an email, i would love to add you in!

  19. Kitchen Butterfly says

    Love this……….and the fact that you made them bite sized. I am thrilled to learn you can make it step wise…..Makes me wish I'd joined the DBs!!!! Well done

  20. Jenny says

    Love the tooth pick idea!

    Did you refrigerate your crackers before baking them? I find that chilling the cut out crackers on the tray before putting them in the oven helps them stop spreading.

  21. bake in paris says

    Welcome to the DB. Once you are in it, you don't you wanna leave :-) It is inspiring and lots to learn from…

    Beautiful beautiful bars, just love the pictures!

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  22. annmartina says

    I never realized graham crackers seem to be a uniquely North American product. Beautiful job. I have a hard time eating just one.

  23. Sarah, Maison Cupcake says

    Wow, I've been so busy this past 24 hours I've not been able to respond to everyone's comments until now.
    @powderate Yes I did spell it wrong, although the spellling we were given was Nanaimo and not Nanimo. I have no idea which is correct.
    @winnie, @mandym @kelly-jane @nina – thank you!
    @ap269 @gala @tia A last minute moment of inspiration that paid off
    @ramblingtart Curling is the funniest sport I can think of
    @ashafsk @mamatkamal – if only that were possible I would be extremely fat
    @julia melanger – the blue plate is from Ikea
    @deerbaby Grahams are sweet, apparently like digestives tho I think they remind me of the now defunct Abbey Crunch. Nothing like jacobs.
    @marymoh You'll have to move to London or me to Scotland!
    @foodwithstyle, thank you I will investigate your blog
    @kitchenbutterfly They were very good for being able to leave lying about if you were busy!!
    @jenny My fridge was full so I put the cracker dough in the garden when it had snowed and was sub zero out there. They felt cold when I put them in oven so as good as the fridge.
    @bakeinparis Thanks for the welcome!
    @annmartina It's strange we can't get them at all in the UK, if they're THAT nice you'd think we could!

  24. Big Red Hearts says

    Mmmm they look lovely! I'm also doing a recipe challenge but by myself, not with any group. My New Year's Resolution was to try a new recipe every week because I felt I was stuck in a rut, cooking the same things week in week out. I must admit I am enjoying it, but then I'm only on week 4! Is the Ten in 10 a weight loss challenge? My other resolution was to lose weight which isn't easy when I love to bake! I've managed just over 4lbs so far with my next weigh in on Saturday. Good luck with yours.
    C xx

  25. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says

    Very clever serving dainty sized morself with toothpicks! 😀 A fabulous start to DB and welcome Sarah! 😀

  26. Heavenly Housewife says

    Congrats on joining the daring bakers. I am looking forward to seeing all the yummy treats you make as part of it. These look yummy. I've never tried Naimaimo bars, but judging by the ingredients, I am sure these are winners.
    *kisses* HH

  27. Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries says

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers'! Your photos of the Nanaimo Bars are FANTASTIC!! They look perfect. :)

  28. vickys says

    Such a great idea to have them on sticks. And I'm glad that you're part of DB now! More eye candy for me. :)

  29. Eyes Bigger Than Belly says

    OMG – they are sooooo cute – and the star wallpaper just makes them more so. Welcome to DB – I'm only on my 2nd challenge so far but really enjoying it! I love "being made" to make something I wouldn't normally!! :)

  30. Anonymous says

    Hello and congrats on your beautiful and delicious looking Nanaimo Bars! I'm so glad you and all your Bakers In Arms have enjoyed these lovely little treats so much. I'm actually from Nanaimo(say it with me: nah-NEYE-moe), British Columbia Canada, and this has been a much loved treat here for a very long time. It's nice to see others enjoying it across the globe! Well done. Your Nanaimo Bars look perfect! Cheers, Cupcake Carly

  31. says

    I’ve come across these beautiful treats on quite a few food blogs recently. Yours look divine – it’s about time I made some for myself!