Lauren named this Challenge, The World Comes to Canada, in honor of the 2010 Winter Olympics. On February 12, the XXI Olympic Winter Games will commence in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. I would love to visit Vancouver and Whistler someday...I've often contemplated a ski vacation over Christmas and New Year's, at the stunning Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Perhaps the Fairmont would like to treat me for a long weekend and offer my Blueberry-Maple Cheesecake and Maple-Bacon Tuiles as a special dessert on one of its restaurant menus??? A woman can dream...
Granted, I have never tasted an original Nanaimo Bar, but I did not find the coconut in the bottom layer, and excessively sweet-sounding middle layer, too appealing. I could have lived with the coconut, but the middle layer sounded much too similar to Royal Icing and brought back visions of the 25 lbs. of confectioner's sugar we went through during our recent gingerbread season! More importantly, the Daring Bakers' Challenges are all about being daring and creative, right? It would be rather dull and boring if all the Daring Bakers simply duplicated the original recipe, and all of our Nanaimo Bars looked and tasted the same.
The first part of the challenge was to make homemade graham crackers, which were then crumbled and used in the base layer of the Nanaimo Bars. For the remainder of the challenge, we were permitted to experiment with different flavors and ingredients.
Therefore, I transformed the Nanaimo Bar into a Cheesecake version, and incorporated some Canadian ingredients:, i.e., Saskatoon berries (ok, I used blueberries), maple syrup, and bacon. I added a few more spices to the crust (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) and a little orange zest to the cheesecake filling. And, for a little garnish atop the dark chocolate ganache, which was flavored with smidgen of Canadian Whiskey, I baked up some Maple-Bacon Tuiles!
I found the plate during a recent junking afternoon, and added the bronze maple leaves (Christmas tree ornaments) and swatch of fur, to make my plating and presentation more Canadian and Winter Olympic-ish ;-) Our copper placemats are pretty cool also, from Crate & Barrel. One of these days, I must do a post on all of the great stuff I've found junking!
I made four, 4-inch cheesecakes, because I happen to own four, 4-inch springform pans. They're so cute! It's also nicer to give away a cute little cheesecake, rather than just a piece off a larger cheesecake.
For this one, I omitted the chocolate ganache topping in favor of a spoonful of blueberries macerated in Canadian Whiskey and maple syrup. Thanks, Jack, that beautiful bottle of Crown Royal Special Reserve was perfect for this occasion! Cheers to all the Olympians!
For the Tuiles, I adapted Fine Cooking's Maple-Walnut Tuiles, substituting bits of maple and brown sugar bacon for the walnuts. These were very easy to make and added a tasty garnish to my cheesecakes.
I enjoyed a very petite tasting of my Cheeesecake (my New Year's Resolution Eat Healthier Diet IS in progress), but I must say that the homemade graham crackers were the highlight of this challenge. Crispy wafers, with hints of honey and vanilla...they were easy to make and vastly superior to store-bought grahams. I did not make the gluten-free version, but please visit our hostess, Lauren, at Celiac Teen if you're interested in her version, and other gluten-free recipes.
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface 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 flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
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 about two or three more crackers.
Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
Chilled butter into the dry ingredients
Pulsed until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal
After wet ingredients are added
Wrapped in plastic
Refrigerated over night
Rolled out and cut into desired shapes. Be generous with your flour as the dough can get sticky.
Graham crackers placed on parchment for baking
The crackers are then scored and pricked with a fork
Freshly baked grahams
Original Nanaimo Bars
The legendary Nanaimo Bar recipe, including the recipe for the graham crackers, can be found here. You can read about the town of Nanaimo, and also find the recipe for Nanaimo Bars, here. The following is for my Olympian Blueberry-Maple Cheesecake version.
Olympian Blueberry-Maple Cheesecakes
Inspired by the original Nanaimo Bar
(Makes four, 4-inch cheesecakes)
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 Large Egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) 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) Dried Blueberries
1/4 cup Canadian Whisky
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
Place dried blueberries, Whisky and Maple Syrup in microwave safe bowl, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Set aside (drain just before adding to the mixture below). Cover the round bottoms of four 4" springform pans with foil and snap bottoms back into place.
In a double-boiler, over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, drained blueberries, and chopped almonds. Press 1/4 of the mixture evenly into each springform pan. Refrigerate while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
Maple Cheesecake Filling
(Modified slightly from Kevin at Closet Cooking)
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one small orange
Beat the cream cheese and maple syrup until smooth; beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and incorporate. Divide the mixture into the four springform pans. Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes. Turn oven off, open the oven door slightly, and allow cheesecakes to cool in the oven. Refrigerate cheesecakes.
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over cheesecake and chill.
4" springform pans with foil covering the bottoms for easy removal of the cheesecakes after baking
Ingredients for the crust
Sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
Thank you, Lauren, for an interesting, timely, and sweet Challenge! I truly enjoyed reading more about Canada and look forward to visiting your beautiful country! Fairmont Chateau, I am able to hop a flight at a moment's notice...
Be sure to visit The Daring Kitchen for information and recipes for this month's Challenge, and please do stop by some of our Daring Bakers' blogs to see what they came up with for this Challenge. Again, a toast to all of the Olympic athletes! Ummmm, good whiskey!