Thursday, January 28, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Orange-Vanilla Bean Nanaimo Tart

This was my very first Daring Baker's challenge and I had a lot of fun with it.  Not being content to use the standard recipe, I decided to add a citrusy twist to the challenge, adding some orange flavor to the mix. Chocolate + Orange = fantastic.

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

For Graham Wafers
2 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of all-purpose 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 mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, 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.
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 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 350F (180C).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more 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 12 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Keep an eye on these...I burned my first batch because I left them in just a minute or two too long.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups of crumbs.

Nanaimo Bars
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
1 TBSP Honey
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
Zest of 1 Orange
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Rolled Oats (Pulsed until fine in food processor)

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) Cornstach
2 vanilla beans, scraped
Zest of 1 Orange
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Powdered Sugar
Grand Marnier to taste (optional

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Dark chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
Sprinkling of sliced almond (optional)

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar, honey and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts, zest and oats. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, cornstarch, vanilla pulp, orange zest, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Add Grand Marnier to taste. 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.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Chip Chai Spice Shortbread


Anyone who says vegan baked goods can't be delicious is just plain wrong. Sure, you might not be able to pull off a chocolate souffle using flax seeds and bananas, but if you embrace the sorts of recipes that vegan ingredients can easily be adapted to, you'll find yourself with delicious, moral pastries.

While I'm not vegan, I am vegetarian, so I can appreciate the difficulties in mimicking some of the classics using finicky substitutes. Luckily, shortbread does not use eggs, which means you can bake some fantastic vegan shortbread without sacrificing its typical properties.

This shortbread is a fantastic cookie to eat with afternoon tea (duh). I might have even nibbled on some for breakfast this morning. 

Chocolate Chip Chai Spice Shortbread
Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chanda Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1/2c nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/2c butter substitute (I love Earth Balance)
3/4c powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1c all purpose flour
1c whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Generous pinch each of ground coriander and ground black pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 bag of chai tea leaves (approximately 1tsp)
4 oz of dark chocolate, finely chopped or healing 1/2c of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using electric beaters in a large bowl, cream together the shortening and butter substitute until smooth. Fold in the powdered sugar and vanilla, then cream again until smooth and creamy.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, pepper, baking soda, salt, and tea. Fold half of this mixture into the creamed shortening mixture to moisten all ingredients. Fold in the remaining flour until a dense dough forms. Knead in chocolate pieces.

Divide the dough and form two logs. Chill for 30 minutes or so to reduce crumbliness issues. With a thin, sharp knife, carefully slice logs into 1/2 inch slices. Transfer slices to making sheets, placing each slide about 2 inches apart. Bake shortbread for 12 to 14 minutes until slightly puffed yet firm and the edges are turning golder. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets before using a spatula to transfer them to cooling racks.