Sunday, January 31, 2010

Daring Bakers January 10: Gluten-free Graham Wafers & Nanaimo Bars

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 recipes on are 101 Cookbooks and  

Well, this is horribly late..... and not complete :(    But at least I've got part of it done!

After the excitement of the Vintner's dinner, I caught a horrendous chest cold and subsequently spent the time when I had intended to do the challenge feeling incredibly miserable....  I'm feeling better now, thankfully, but I only got the gluten-free graham wafers done.

We had the option of making wheat graham wafers, instead of the gluten free, but I decided to try to gluten free.  I've had an interest in gluten-free recipes for a while, partially because I've got a couple friends with celiac/gluten intolerance and partially because I spent portion of my life with a wheat allergy (although just wheat, not gluten).   But, I've never actually taken a wheat-based recipe and made it gluten free.....

I was able to find the rice flour, sorghum flour, and tapioca starch easily in Whole Foods, although they were more expensive.  It was interesting to feel their different consistency as I mixed the dough and rolled it out.

These Wafers are absolutely delicious!  In a way, I'm glad I didn't make the Nanaimo Bars (although I do plan to make them in the future) because it means I get to eat all the graham wafers myself instead :)  I find the wafers remind me of Biscoff Cookies, like the ones I always eat on Delta Airlines flights.  I've always wanted to try to re-create those cookies, but I guess now I don't have to!  

Even though I didn't complete this entire challenge, I still consider it a success.  I stretched myself as a baker and made a product I'd never made before, plus I made a gluten free product as well.

(Note, I only made the gluten free graham wafers)

Gluten-Free Graham Wafers

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 (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 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.
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.


  • If I make these again, I may try rolling the dough into logs, and then freezing it, and finally slicing it (like icebox cookies).  the dough is extremely sticky and I think it may be less messy that way....  

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
For Nanaimo Bars — 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.

For the Nanaimo Bars, if making with wheat, replace the gluten-free graham wafer crumbs with equal parts wheat graham wafer crumbs!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CIC Vintner's Dinner: Team Pithivier

a panoramic shot of the dinning room  (click for a larger view)

In January, the Culinary Institute of Charleston hosts a black tie benefit dinner fundraiser for the school called the Vintner's Dinner.   It is attended by nearly 600 people!  This year's theme was "A Night in the Valley" and everything served was of French Influence.

the transformed entrance to the building

a portion of the transformed hallway, complete with a view of the Tallow Dragon

The Chef Hall of Fame changed into a chic lounge area.

The event is completely run and staffed by students at the school as well as Chef instructors and other instructors.  Since this is my first year in school, it was my first experience helping with the event....   Here's a link to the promo video they showed at last year's dinner about all the work that goes into such an event......  It's craaaazy!  But so absolutely unforgettable to be a part of.

I was a member of "Team Pithivier" headed by Chef Jeff Alexander.  We worked exclusively on the plated dessert: A Freshly Baked Traditional French Pithivier with  Apricot Rum Sauce, Mint Emulsion, and French Roast Ice Cream.

an example of the final plate. 

The amount of work that went in to this dessert is absolutely extraordinary.  Really.

A pithivier is composed of homemade puff pastry (made with European Plugra Butter, I must add) that is then cut into squares, egg washed, filled with almond frangipan and a small amount of apricot jam, then toped with a second square of Puff Pastry.  THEN the edges are scalloped, the pithivier is egg washed twice, and a spiral pattern is carved into the top, all before baking.  Pithiviers are traditionally made in a circle shape (to mimic the shape of a wagon wheel) but when you're making 600 desserts, sometimes sacrifices and deviations have to be made.  Whew!

Chef scalloping a pithivier

This project was most definately a group effort.... Many many people helped with the assembly of the pithiviers as well as the pre-scooping of the ice cream and the piping of the chocolate decorations.  I personally helped with the scalloping and the carving of the pithiviers, as well as with piping the chocolate decoration, and then the final plating technique.

piping chocolate decorations

Did I mention we had to pipe 800 of the chocolate decorations instead of just 600?  Just in case we had lots of breakage.....

Making 600 Desserts has it's challenges.....  Are there enough sheet pans?  How will  they be stored?  Is there enough freezer space?  Where will we set up all the pans?  How do we time it correctly so that the pithiver is served warm while the ice cream is still frozen?

Here's how it all went down the afternoon/night of the event.....

Step 1: Pipe 800 chocolate decorations.  At least there was a group of nearly 10 of us to do this....

Busy pipers

trays and trays and trays of finished chocolate decorations

Step 2: Preparing the mint by removing the buds because there was a screw up in ordering and regular mint was ordered instead of strictly "mint buds."  Turn the rest of the mint into the impromptu "mint emulsion" and incorporate that into the plate design.

Step 3: Set out plates on every surface available/imaginable in both bakeshop classrooms.  And then when you're out of space, start stacking....

Step 4: Pipe the Apricot Rum sauce on the plates.

Step 5: Place the Chocolate Wafer on each plate (New thing I learned: Ice Cream will start melting immediately if placed directly on a plate; if placed on top of something {i.e. a chocolate wafer} it will melt more slowly)

Step 6: Arrange 5 drops of mint emulsion around the edges of the plate, but still in the plate cavity.  Yes, only 5.  I was slightly scolded for putting 7 or 8 drops because I didn't realize we were being so specific.

Chef Willson carefully piping mint emulsion

Step 7: Bake the lovingly-made Pithiviers so that they are done in time for service, yet still warm.

some of the baked pithiviers

Pithivier Detail

Step 8: Plate the Pithiviers at a slight angle.

Step 9: Add the mint bud to the vent hole of the Pithivier (where possible, since we didn't have enough)

Step 10 & 11:  Place the French Roast Ice Cream on the chocolate wafer and set the Chocolate Decoration (gently) on the ice cream.  

A classmate adding ice cream to plates

Step 12: Load desserts as quickly as possible on a piece of equipment called a "Queen" (this, I also didn't know before the event).

Step 13: Wheel the Queen, full of precious desserts, to the proper place for the student servers to bring to each person.

Step 14: Let the people enjoy their desserts!

And that is what we did.  Times 600.

It was fun.  It was hard work.  It was great experience.  It was unforgettable. (sorry, it's cheesy but true).

p.s more pictures can be seen on my Flickr

Friday, January 22, 2010

Late Christmas Present

Christmas is stressful and busy.   And it's especially stressful for those in school because we have finals so close to that time too.....

So, needless to say, I didn't get all my christmas presents done before christmas.

Case in point, this basket:

I wanted to give as many consumable gifts as I could this year.  I wanted to make things people could enjoy and use up, instead of things that could clutter their lives or be unuseful (if that's even a word).

So, I found a basket (which could be re-used) and filled it with delicious homemade snack!  I made Peppermint Bark, Spicy Almonds, Smokey Cashews and Dark Chocolate Chunk Hot Cocoa Mix.  And I gave the Christmas present in the middle of January.

Hopefully the goodies will all be enjoyed and consumed :)

And I think, from now on, I'm going to concentrate on doing Valentine's presents instead of Christmas presents.

Here's the recipe for the Hot Cocoa mix, which I found in the December 09 issue of Real Simple Magazine.

Chocolate Chunk Hot Cocoa Mix
Makes: 1 gift (4 cups in all)
  • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (2 cups)
  • ¾ cup sugar (3/4 cup) 
  • 8 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate (8 oz) 

In a bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, and chocolate. Store in an airtight container. Keep at room temperature for up to 4 months.

How to Package Your Gift

  1. Transfer the cocoa mix to a resealable airtight container. (I used a canning jar) 
  2. Handwrite or download the following instructions on a gift tag or label to include with your gift: “In a small saucepan, whisk ¼ cup cocoa mix with ¾ cup milk. Bring to a bare simmer. Serves 1.” 
  3. Tie a ribbon around the container, looping it through a measuring scoop (I skipped this) and the gift tag with the instructions. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chocolate Truffles

While I've been excited and intrigued about Artisan Bread class, I've been more on the fence when it comes to my Candies & Confectionaries class.....  

I like detail. I like tedious (most of the time, case in point: viennoiserie).  But the process of tempering chocolate starts to make me panic.  I never realized how much goes into tempering chocolate, and more importantly, keeping it "in temper."  I'm feeling stressed just thinking about it.....  

Oh and did I mention that chocolate is messy.  Completely and horribly messy.  Usually, I don't mind messy things.  Dough and flour and icing do not bother me.  Chocolate does.

But, these feelings didn't stop me from taking tons of pictures in class as we were making delicious truffles!

Because my class is so new to this whole tempering thing, we used pre-made shells (my group used the milk chocolate ones, and the other groups did white chocolate and dark chocolate).  But we did make the  ganache filling.

One group made pistachio white chocolate ganache....

The other group made Banana Black Current Dark Chocolate Ganache....

And we made Orange Milk Chocolate Ganache!  (with an entire bottle of Contreau, might I add...)

So, we filled the pre-made shells.

And topped them with a little tempered chocolate, just to seal the liquid centers in.

Now comes the messiest part... rolling the truffles in more tempered chocolate.  Thankfully, I ended up being the one in charge of keeping the chocolate temp correct and for replacing the sheet pans as they were filled.

Messy chocolate....

Next, we piped thin stripes of contrasting chocolate.....

My group chose to use both white and dark chocolate for striping on ours.

Here are the final products! Yum Yum! We were "required" to try one of each.  How terrible!  (not)

We made crazy amounts of truffles!

And yes, they were wonderfully delicious.  But I'm still not sure chocolate is my forte.   Guess only time will tell!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beginning a New Semester & Artisan Bread

Different Flours, Class Day 1

Another semester has begun.  And a new series of courses starts.  One of the classes I've been most excited about (although really I'm excited about almost all my classes) is Artisan Bread, taught by Chef Jeff.

Chef with the couche and peel 

I was unexpectedly bitten by the yeast bug last semester with Laminated Doughs and Pastries (I always thought I was more of a cakes and desserts person, up until that point).  And while croissants and viennoiserie still are most interesting to me, I'm still very intrigued by Artisan Bread and am very excited to learn everything I can in class.

Straight-method Baguettes, Class Day 1

Baguettes are the absolute backbone of our class.  We make them every single class.  Both our midterm and finals involve them. We'll try various methods and make many, many mistakes along the way.....  

This is one of the hardest parts.... the "stippling" 

See, the only real way of learning baguettes (and really, artisan bread) is by doing and practicing.  Mistakes are good, if you can learn from them.  I've already made many many mistakes, but each time I do, I now know what not to do in the future.

Scaling the proper temperature water

Baguettes may look simple, but that doesn't mean they're easy.   No fussy ingredients involved, just flour, salt, yeast and water; however, their are still many other factors involved.   Is the dough mixed properly? How is it treated during the proofing process.  Is it shaped correctly?  Are the stipples the right angle, depth, placement, and number?  Is it baked properly? And more..... Whew!  Lots to have running through your head during class..... 

Nice baguettes waiting in the couche

Even though I've only had class twice, I've still learned tremendous amounts and my class has produced some tremendous product! 

We've made straight baguettes.....

And wonderful Basil Garlic Rustic Rolls

And overnight Baguettes

And Seeded Epis (side note: I use to LOVE selling these at Dakota Harvest.... they're just neat) 

And Biga Baguettes (baguettes made with an Italian-style preferment)

And Lemon Poppyseed Quick Bread

I've got tons more pictures up on Flickr as well.  I'm so excited to see what other exciting (and incredibly delicious) things we'll be making!  Stay tuned for more exciting bread posts.