Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars – Daring Bakers Challenge January 2010

January 27th, 2010


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


I always get excited seeing the new Daring Bakers challenge. I think I start most of my posts with something along those lines…


This was a different challenge for two reasons. It was gluten free and we were making a classic Canadian dessert – one which I had never heard of.


I’ve always tried to convince myself to make more gluten free products, as I would like to have a few recipes that are suitable for any friends or family who may be celiac or have a gluten intolerance. This is why I was really looking forward to this recipe.


Starting with the Graham Wafers – I found the dough was quite sticky, and very difficult to even get into plastic and into the fridge (it probably didn’t help with our humidity and heat). It rolled out very nicely, although I had to work quickly as it started melting very quickly. The aroma from the oven was just lovely, a combination of honey, vanilla and brown sugar. All in all the wafers/biscuits were ok, I probably wouldn’t make them again, unless to make the nanaimo bars.


The Nanaimo bars are very nice and quite easy to make. I was expecting the middle layer to be a bit more custard-like, although the butter cream was very nice.


Thanks again to Lauren for the great challenge. I’m glad I’ve made some more gluten free sweets and am looking forward to expanding my repertoire.

P.S. Those red/orange spots in the butter cream are from the custard powder.

Gluten-Free Graham Wafers

1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour) (I found 138g was 1¼ – 1½ cups)
¾ cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour (I found 100g was 1 cup)
½ cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour (I used normal rice flour)
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
¾ 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

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.


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.


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.




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.



Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.

Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.

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.


When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1¼ cups (300 mL/ 160g) 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
½ cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
¼ cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1¼ cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See recipe above)
½ cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened) (I found 1 cup weighed ~65g)
For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
½ 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

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.




For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.



For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.


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!



  1. I hadn’t heard of Nanaimo bars either, and was excited for the challenge for that reason. I didn’t do the gluten version and found the Graham cracker dough pretty easy to work with. Maybe you can try that version next time? They are great for ice cream sandwiches! 🙂

  2. Steph says:

    I’m the same as you, I hadn’t heard of them before this and I found the Graham wafer dough so sticky and hard to work with! Your Nanaimo bars look lovely 🙂

  3. Allison says:

    I, too, was looking forward to trying a gluten free recipe but probably won’t make gluten free graham crackers again unless in this recipe. I found they had a very chalky aftertaste. So I was a little disappointed that I didn’t like them more. But the Nanaimo bars – so good! I have actually heard of them before and it had been ages since I had one. Let’s just say they didn’t last long in our house. Congrats on the challenge!

  4. Cakelaw says:

    Your bars look gorgeous – look at that thick layer of chocolate on top – mmmmm …

  5. Liz says:

    Your bars look fantastic. I found the dough really difficult to work with too, but I guess the heat doesn’t help!

  6. Lauren says:

    I do hope you try more gluten-free treats! Your bars look simply sensational! Thank you for giving my challenge a shot =D.

  7. Karen says:

    I’ve heard of these before but I can’t remember for the life of me from where. They’re so perfect. Look at the perfect slicing job 😀

  8. Yours look wonderful! Isn’t that custard/buttercream layer amazing! I’m so glad we were given this recipe 😀

  9. Ladybird says:

    Wow these bars look picture perfect and oh so beautifully chocolatty! Nice job 🙂

  10. marcellina says:

    Your bars are so perfect. Great slicing! I love all your step by step photo’s!

  11. theheat01 says:

    Wow those look so perfect & so delicious!!!

  12. Megan says:

    oh these look divine!!! I so wish I’d made mine fatter! congratulations

  13. sheba says:

    Looks so neat and well done….

  14. Parita says:

    Wow Anita, your nanaimo bars look fantastic, so smoothly cut 🙂

  15. Gala says:

    Love the clean cut on your bars, and great step by step pics too!

  16. wic says:

    this looks delicious I think I will have to take some out of the freezer. amazing step by step pictures.

  17. MandM says:

    Your bars look lovely 🙂
    I also found them very tasty and they’re easy to put together which is always a bonus!
    Lovely work with the challenge.

  18. pontch says:

    Perfect job!!
    with this great bars, no doubt I can leave room for dessert.

  19. deeba says:

    Perfect as they are pretty! Well done on the challenge.

  20. Sue says:

    Your bars look so nicely cut and delicious! Great job on the challenge!

  21. Great job, wish I could have made the gluten free grahams too. Your bars are lovely.

  22. Jeanne says:

    Your bars are so neatly sliced! Mine came out looking all butchered. 😉 And the bottom layer is picture perfect with the flecks of coconut and nuts!

  23. Interesting to hear they’re Canadian – they look delicious!

  24. Perfect execution of the challenge and the slice layres are so straight and even well done. Lovely photos especially the step by step series. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  25. Barbara says:

    I’d never heard of Nanaimo bars until this Daring Baker challenge. And I wonder what makes them Canadian?
    Impressive you made your own graham crackers! And your bars are perfectly cut and photographed.
    Such fun watching how differently all of you make the same bars….

  26. Jill says:

    Beautiful bars!! I love the step-by-step photos–so helpful! 🙂

  27. Michelle says:

    Beautiful! Makes me hungry all over again! 🙂

  28. Karine says:

    Great job with your nanaimo bars! They look delicious 🙂

  29. Von says:

    I love reading the daring baker’s challenges. These nanaimo bars look really good!

  30. Aparna says:

    Such perfect layers. Your bars are an absolute success!

  31. Y says:

    Your Nanaimo bars look so perfect! This challenge probably isn’t something I would make again, but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.

  32. Juliana says:

    Yummie, your Nainamo bars look absolutely gorgeous, perfect 🙂 Great pictures!

  33. Trisha says:

    Hmmmm must try and make grahame crackers… but how hard/easy could they really be to make at this time of the year?

  34. Trissa says:

    How great is the DAring Bakers that you get to make things you would have never otherwise tried before! Great work on this challenge Anita! Sounds like the graham crackers were a bit messy to make but so worth it!

  35. Cassie Baker says:

    wow those r just plain gorgeous!

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