Daring Bakers: Homemade Wholemeal Whole Wheat Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars

 DB NanaimoBars02-framed

This month the Daring Bakers’ challenge was a tribute to Canada in honor of the Winter Olympic Games. Lauren of of Celiac Teen asked us to make the classic Canadian dessert to help chime in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

I’d never actually made Nanaimo Bars at home myself, having had them a few times and coming away thinking they were too sweet I simply avoided making them. What really got me raving for this challenge was the fact that we were to make our own homemade graham crackers. I’ve been wanting to make graham crackers for a while but like a few things – I start, I research, I bookmark and move on.

Lauren urged us to make the challenge gluten free but as it was not a mandatory part I decided to use the flours I had in my pantry. I had spelt, wholemeal whole wheat and all-purpose. I decided to go for a mix of wholemeal whole wheat and all-purpose for a nuttier flavor.

Nanaimo bars are named after the town Nanaimo in British Columbia. It’s a pretty straightforward type of sweet treat, which requires no baking (if you are not making your own crackers that is).

Basically there are three layers to the dessert – a cracker crumb base layer, which is topped by a light custard layer and the final layer consists of simple melted chocolate. From this basic recipe one can make any type of variety they fancy.

DB GrahamCrackers01-framed

The dough for the crackers came very easily together and I had no trouble rolling, shaping and forming it. I actually had to leave the dough in the refrigerator for two days. Due to the wholemeal whole wheat flour I used, the biscuit was crunchier and nuttier in flavor. So good that I made a double batch! Although in the recipe it says to bake them for 25 minutes my graham crackers were perfect after just 12 minutes – so this might be something to watch in your own ovens.

As I love pistachios I decided to substitute them with the almonds in the Nanaimo bars. It added a lovely color and a wonderful mellow crunch! I also cut the icing sugar amount to half and still found these sweet enough. Finally I added a fruity layer of apricot puree between the top chocolate layer and the middle custard layer. Sensational!

The recipe below is with my tweaks and substitutes

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 www.nanaimo.ca.

Wholemeal Whole Wheat Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars

Printable version of recipe here

Preparation time:

  • Graham Wafers: 30 to 45 minutes total active prep, 2 ½ hours to overnight and 45 minutes inactive prep.
  • Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.


Graham Crackers

1 cup (140 g) all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (190 g) wholemeal whole wheat 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-flavored 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 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 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit ).

  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 12 (to 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.


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) Pistachios (or almonds), coarsely chopped
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

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.)
1 cups (127 g) Icing Sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

Optional Layer
small jar of apricot puree or preserve


  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.
Sticky Note 1 notes

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.

Watch the wheat-based graham wafers very closely in the oven, as they bake faster than the gluten-free ones, sometimes only 12 minutes.


DB NanaimoBars01-framed

Yes I have to stress the pint again – the graham crackers were simply irresistible. I ate so many one evening that I seriously had a tummy ache! The bars were lovely too, however, I found the amount of shredded coconut on the high side. I definitely would reduce it to half of the amount. It was a huge hit with Tom and Soeren. Tom managed to polish of 4 pieces in one sitting. My friend B., who is becoming a reliable recipe tester for me, found them to be sweet but delectable with the pistachios and apricot flavors.  


Thank you to everyone who has voted for What’s For Lunch, Honey? at the weblog awards for the 2010 Bloggies. This humble blog is one of the top five finalists in the category Best European Blog! If you have not voted yet may I please solicit your votes – you have till January 31st to vote for your favorite blogs in a huge variety of categories.

You might like these Daring Bakers’ treats from WFLH:

Lemon Meringue Pie Chocolate Caramel Tart Opera Cake


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2010 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. Lovely lovely bars and I love the pistachio nuts you added into the cookies. Fabulous!

    And have an excellent and very safe trip!

  2. Lovely! I've always wanted to make both of these recipes--not only the bars, but graham crackers, as well. I'll just have to commit to doing them. How much longer can I wait? They're gorgeous and chocolatey!

  3. Your version looks great! Those Nanaimo Bars are very tempting



  4. I simply love the graham crackers, not so the bars. Too rich and too sweet (even though I half the sugar amount) for me. If I have to do it again, I'll change the recipe a bit but then it won't be called Nanaimo bars anymore, will it. ;)

  5. Your bars look great, Meeta. We absolutely loved the crackers too, though the bars were a different story altogether- found them TOO rich.

  6. heya! gorgeous bars.. btw your grahams look like the McVities digestives.. did they taste like that too.. pleaaseee say yes...if so, I'll kiss you!! I looove mcvities and can't find them easily enuf here!

  7. They look gorgeous Meeta and I love the addition of the little extra fruity layer in between. I have yet to make mine, but will probably do so tomorrow!

  8. Oh my goodness, they look perfect! Nice job.

  9. AWESOME!!! the topping looks great with the ridges and swirls.

  10. We ate all of our grahams before I could make the bars. I had to use commercial graham in the bars. I love the idea of the apricot puree.

  11. Awwwwww a sweet reminder of home!!! LOVE these, we always seemed to have a batch made in our house, Beautiful job!

  12. Those look decadent! :) And congrats on the nomination... already voted. I am crossing my fingers for you!!!!

  13. Wow those look amazing, Meeta! I might steal your idea and add a fruit layer myself. Yes, mine aren't made yet. Graham cracker dough in fridge.. need to roll it, bake it and then put my bars together. *sigh*

    But the fortunate part of my being late is getting fabulous ideas from you! hehe


  14. Graham crackers were one of my favourite things when I lived in the USA. I so miss them here. I was excited to make them, too! Great bars. Look so lovely.

  15. Love the fact that you made them with wholewheat flour.....they look good too! And I voted already.....chic!

  16. Love the pistachios in your bars, I found them very heavy on the coconut too. Also my crackers cooked very quickly like yours. This was my first month cooking with DB.

    I have voted already! Good luck - and you are way better than Belgian Waffle in your same category. I don't know any of the others.

  17. I'm so glad the wafers were such a hit! Your bars look divine with the apricot and pistachios - Yum! Wonderful job on my challenge =D.

  18. Lovely! Chocolate and Pista! Perfect!! Graham cracker crust and gooey topping,what more do you need? :))

  19. I solved the coconut problem by using finely shredded coconut in place of more coarsely shredded. This was a better texture without too much coconut.

    The apricot jam addition is a great idea. Everything is better
    with apricot jam :)

  20. Gorgeous! Love the tweaks you made with these! The pistachios are a brilliant choice and the jam sounds lovely. My favorite part was the graham crackers too!

  21. wow beautiful looking nanaimo bars :) i love the addition of pistaschios to tjhe crust.

  22. Wholemeal whole wheat flour...that's a really good idea!! That would work amazingly well with the honey too, I think. I'm salivating just thinking about it! I made only half a batch though, because I didn't think they were going to be THAT good, and I hate throwing food away. Now I'm kinda regretting it.And I bet that apricot puree layer adds just the right amount of tartness to balance the flavours out.

  23. Thanks for posting this! This is something new for me and it is so timely. I need some new recipes.

  24. They look lovely, Meeta-- so, did you find them still very sweet in the end? :)

  25. The bars and the crackers look great. Well done.
    Apricot puree? What a great idea.. .. sounds delicious!

  26. Lovely bars and crackers, as usual wonderful clicks!

  27. Gorgeous bars! I am sure with pista they would tasted even better!

  28. Your bars look wonderful. I love the idea of the pistachios - they go so well with chocolate

  29. The apricot/pistachio combination sounds wonderful, and it was probably a very smart idea to reduce the sugar. I accidentally miscalculated and *increased* the amount of sugar in the crust, making the bars even sweeter. Like you, I thought the graham crackers definitely stole the show!

  30. Homemade graham crackers sounds amazing. The nanaimo bars....first time I've heard of them.They look really good, though

  31. Great idea to take pistacio instead of almonds. Love your pics, they are beautiful as always!

  32. Love the idea of using pistachio nuts instead of almonds and the addition of apricot must have been lovely.

  33. Great great great! I love pistachios and apricot together! I like the idea of a layer of jam in the bars!

  34. The luscious apricot layer adds to the yumminess,love it :D

  35. I love your changes to this recipe. I too am a lover of pistachios and anytime you use them in recipes, they always sound delightful! Great job.

  36. The apricot jam is a great idea. I would pair very nicely with the other flavor in this bar.

  37. Your bars look great, Meeta! I was more fond of the grahams themselves than the actual finished bar. I adore the jam you've added! Excellent!

  38. I love the texture on your top layer--your photos are beautiful! Well Done!! :)

  39. Your bars look super! I didnt get the time to do the challenge this month...pout!

  40. Mmmmm, graham crackers (aka digestive biscuits over here!) - there is nothing finer with cheddar cheese, or in a cheesecake base! Intrigued by the bars - they sound totally divine and I'm not at all familiar with them... YUM!

  41. Shows what a little bar can do.
    The wildly gorgeous take on the Nanaimo bar as a salute to the 2010 Olympic is the sweetest .

    Just a great example of how connected the world is. I'm new to blogs and I marvel how I lived with out this enrichment.

    Such passion and dedication, I saw you were nominated for an award, which led me to your site, that is to say I see a frontier of respect in this community that is profound.

    Good luck at the bloggies.

  42. I know. Those crackers were just so good!
    Knew these bars were sweet, so cut down on the sugar a bit. My husband and daughter were fighting for the last few pieces! :)

  43. Meeta, your bars turned out beautiful as did the photos, AS always! I must say..I agree with the general consensus - great grahams, too rich bars. Next time, if there is one..no buttercream'ish' filling lol

  44. These look gorgeous! Great idea of adding pistachios...bet it adds a fantastic flavor! :)

  45. So glad you tried them, Meeta!!! They look so artistic and beautiful ... they make me happy! And of course you know you're an honourary Canadian!

  46. Truly deliicous meeta. pisdtachios are my fave kinda nuts, and they add so much oomph to these! VERY VERY NICE!!

  47. thank you everyone for all your feedback and comment. the apricot jam really added a wonderful fruity note to it.


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