Nanaimo Bars

Last week, many Daring Bakers published posts featuring the Canadian treat Nanaimo Bars. Contrary to what you may think, this post does not qualify for participation. Why on earth not? Well, I didn’t make my own graham crackers, and that, dear friends, was last month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge.

I made these bars to welcome the upcoming Winter Olympics to Canadia, a place I don’t know too much about. Canadian things I love include maple syrup, Japadog, and these bars. Nanaimo Bars have an American cousin that sometimes goes by the name Magic Cookie Bar, and other times Seven Layer Bar. I’ve been making those since high school, but I find the Canadian version more sophisticated, so I might forever replace Magic Cookie Bars with Nanaimo Bars.

This is an easy no-bake recipe filled with rich and sweet ingredients; I just don’t know who wouldn’t like them. If you have tree nut allergies, please omit the almonds and increase the coconut/graham cracker crumb amount. Give them a try, eh?

Nanaimo Bars
adapted from The City of Nanaimo

Bottom Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup shredded coconut (can be sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla pudding mix
2 cups confectioners sugar

Top Layer Ingredients:
4 ounces dark chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Making the 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 9 by 13 inch pan.
2. Making the middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. Making the top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
4. Once chilled, cut bars into 2 inch squares or diamonds. Bars freeze well; keep leftover portions in freezer for later use.

Gingerbread Alamo

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
Merry Christmas from Texas! This year Tim and I are celebrating the birth of Jesus with my side of the family in Houston, and we’ve been having fun with our traditions of puzzle making, carol singing, and eating everything in sight. I took a break from the puzzles by making this gingerbread Alamo for this month’s well-timed Daring Bakers’ challenge.

I take no credit for the idea. Lisa of the Homesick Texan blogged about her gingerbread Alamo a few days ago, and I used her awesome templates for this challenge. Lisa and I have a few things in common: we reside in New York, home to us is Houston, our first gingerbread structure was made this year, and that structure would be the Alamo covered in snow. I’m actually headed to San Antonio this weekend, and I’ll double check, but somehow I doubt it’s covered in snow. Looking back, I should have used simple syrup instead of royal icing for the glue. Royal icing does not hide well.

I snacked on the bits of the gingerbread, and I was not a fan. It seemed to be too dry and lacked not only the chewy texture but some flavor as well. It made for a decent structure, but I would not recommend making it for taste.

I hope y’all had a wonderful Christmas today. I love the holiday because of its meaning and also for the quality time I get to spend with family. I’m off to get back to them and the puzzles!

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, well packed
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour
Gingerbread Alamo templates

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.
2. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Cut patterns for the Alamo: front, 4 sides, back, and roof.
4. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough.
5. Mark off the various pieces with a knife and cut shapes out of dough. Place on baking sheet and chill in refrigerator until dough hardens slightly, about 5-10 minutes.
6. Take baking sheet out of refrigerator and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, trim edges to make straight if necessary. Let gingerbread completely cool before assembling.

Royal Icing
1 large egg white
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

1. Beat all liquid ingredients until smooth.
2. Add the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency.

Assembling the Alamo
1. Wrap a large piece of cardboard with parchment for the Alamo grounds.
2. Generally apply royal icing to bottom of the front Alamo wall, hold it in place on the parchment covered cardboard until it stands on its own.
3. Continue the process with the four side pieces (two go in the middle to support the roof) and the back. Let the royal icing dry on the Alamo.
4. Add the roof, generously applying more icing between cracks. Hold in place until dry, using cans if you have to.