Ben the Baker

Just a guy trying to get his kids to eat

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Nanaimo Bombe – DB January Challenge

Posted by osakaben41 on January 27, 2010

I missed the last two months of the DB’s for no better reason than just being too busy to catch up.  They put out some great Canolis in November and some stunning gingerbread houses in December.  I couldn’t stand to miss yet another challenge.

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

The general idea was to make gluten free Graham Crackers and then incorporate them into the cookie base of a Canadian Nanaimo Bar.  The bars themselves consist of a chocolate base, in this case with Walnuts, Graham Cracker pieces and Coconut, with a ‘custard’ (though some say it’s more like a buttercream) center, topped with melted chocolate, sliced and served cold, or at least they were in this case.

Before getting into the details of how we got from there to here, a quick note on what you can learn about yourself when baking, and an explanation for the torrent of adjectives about to come your way.  Someday I hope to be the kind of baker that can make just one perfect cookie, and let pure technique and skill stand on their own.  Until then, and while I work towards  that goal, I’m going to put every idea and whim into anything I put out.  (This is such a stereotypical first year architecture studio mistake)   The best example I can think of that highlights this progression is the published sketchbooks of Dan Eldon, photojournalist, world traveler, artist extrodinaire.  

He was raised overseas, and from an early age was encouraged to keep sketchbooks.  They start with big messy swaths of fingerpaints and scribbles, slowly grow into collages and mixed media, eventually he starts getting good with a camera himself, finds work for the AP as a photographer before being killed on assignment in Somalia.  If you find yourself with some free time, go check out his work.  The earliest books are all over the map with every page just completely covered in writing, scraps, paint, etc.  It isn’t until the later books though that you can see an element of restraint come into play, and what was once simply amazing and exciting becomes instead powerful.  

Now the take-away from this isn’t that we need to exert more self-control so much as it’s necessary to work through a phase of unrestrained exuberance before earning the right to do something more refined.  The wild confusing flail as a productive step on the road towards elegant control, not something to be avoided.  At least that’s my excuse, but more likely it’s just fun to do it this way now.

Having said that may I present to you the Nanaimo Bombe (Italian-Chestnut-Honey Graham Crackers mixed in a chocolate base with toasted walnut and rolled oats, supporting a Caramel Creme Brule insert, which in turn was surrounded by a Calvados/Apple Mousse, topped with a Cinnamon Chocolate Mirror Glaze with a candied apple garnish.  So let’s take these one at a time then shall we? (with recipes to follow)

The Graham Cracker recipe called for a “mild honey” which this most certainly was not.  The “Miele Di Sicilia” was a rare and beautiful gift  though so it needed to be highlighted in something.  I wouldn’t say they came out smelling ‘Chestnutty’, but it certainly wasn’t like any Graham Cracker I’ve ever had.  Figuring they would go down either with a cup of coffee or as a garnish on the final piece, I cut them into small coins and just accepted that they would be potent if taken on their own.  Slightly overbaked and brittle, when applied to a frozen dessert they softened up nicely.

Otherwise, they were supposed to be gluten free but I wasn’t able to get my hands on the various flour substitutes and went with whole wheat instead.    I’ve included the DB recipe down below though in the hope of coming back and doing it right some day.  As noted elsewhere, it’s a very sticky dough to work with.

Overall though I wanted to figure out a way to play with some interesting flavors, and had had this image from Nordljus on my list for some time.   From there the Caramel Creme Brulee insert then came about as a way to get a ‘custard’ into this project.  (The DB recipe called for ‘custard powder’ which (again) I couldn’t get my hands on.)

The Mousse was just a way to lighten up what would otherwise be far too much creme brulee on a chocolate cookie, and because apple and caramel just seemed a pairing too good to pass up.  Related to this, I was looking for an excuse to try making a mousse with a pate a bombe base but couldn’t find any decent apple mousse recipes so I just whipped something up off the cuff.  As it was to be covered with Chocolate, and the color of the mousse wouldn’t really indicate what flavor it was, the apple chips on top were to act as a clue for what was underneath.  A few quick passes on a madoline, soak some slices in a simple syrup and bake at 300 until nice and dry.

For the mousse though, peel and core 3 granny smith apples.  Saute in some butter and 1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy), with some lemon juice and sugar to taste.  Cook for about 15 minutes until the apples break down, then strain through a mesh sieve.  I then scaled that Pate a Bombe recipe (linked above) in half, and mixed the resulting custard with the apple sauce.  Then whipped 1 cup heavy cream and folded it into the mix.  Knowing the cream would soften the apple flavor I went for something strong.  The bombe had to be stored in the freezer, but when served, it needs to warm up or the mousse feels gritty with ice crystals and loses some of it’s apple-ness.  Likewise, the Calvados only barely comes through as an afterthought, and even then only if you know to look for it.  Next time I’d go with much more liquour.

The Cinnamon chocolate glaze came from my new CIA textbook  The trick here is taking a frozen dessert and pouring a hot chocolate sauce over it without melting the entire thing, if not just the outside layer.  I’ll only say it could have gone better, just as it could have gone much, much worse.

After that, it was dressed up with the apple slices and graham crackers (more to hide the flaws than anything else).  VERY happy with how it tasted, but it’s a narrow temperature window for serving it right.  Too cold and the full taste doesn’t come through.  Too warm and the whole thing will slump into a puddle.

So it was a fun experiment, partly because I wanted to try making a Bombe, and I’m glad it turned out at least close to the intention.  That said, I’ve got this nagging feeling that it may have taken a step or two past the point of claiming any relationship to a real Nanaimo bar.  If you’re looking for examples of talented bakers that were able to stay closer to the idea while bringing something new to the conversation, I’d have to tip my hat to the inspirational Audax, Rasberri Cupcakes, SweetSensation, There’s a Newf in my soup, and Wolf.  It’s always fun to see where creative people end up when we all start from the same place.  Thanks again for Lauren for the great challenge this month.

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

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.

4 Responses to “Nanaimo Bombe – DB January Challenge”

  1. pontch said

    what a beautiful fancy Nanaimo creation.
    Great job!!

  2. rachel said

    I love the creativeness here!

  3. Lauren said

    Okay, this is just plain awesome. I love how you took the Nanaimo bar as inspiration and ran with this fantastic idea! Wonderful job on my challenge =D.

  4. osakaben41 said

    Thanks for the nice thoughts guys. To be honest I was worried that this was too much of a departure, and I’d not be welcome in Canada for awhile. Sure was fun to play with though.

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