Friday, April 22, 2005

SHF #7: Graham Crackers

When Derrick announced the theme for this month's Sugar High Friday as molasses, I was stumped. What do you go with molasses? The things that immediately jumped to mind were ginger crinkles, ginger snaps and gingerbread - none of which fit terribly well with springtime snacking. Cakes and pies and puddings... molasses just seems to make everything heavy. Then I realised that molasses doesn't have to make things heavy. It is just often used as a sweetener in heavier things.
So what is something nice and light? Hmm... how about marshmallows. And what goes with marshmallows? Graham crackers and chocolate to make s'mores.
Now we were talking.

I've been wanting to try homemade graham crackers for some time now. I even went out and bought a cookbook, Retro Desserts by Wayne Harley Brachman, that I knew would have a recipe for it. Grahams use both honey and molasses, so the flavor of molasses isn't overwhelming. The cookies turned out to be amazingly crumbly and delicious. I didn't have 1/2 cup of graham or rye flour, as the recipe called for, so I just substituted whole wheat flour. This led the final product to have a texture strikingly similar to store-bought grahams, meaning that they were flakey and not dense. In fact, I was thrilled since a similar texture means that probably I made them correctly!
I whipped them up in the food processor in no time. The dough was incredibly easy to roll out and I'm sure it could be rerolled once to use up any scraps, though I just ate some raw and tossed the excess. The only change I would make to the recipe is to roll the crackers out thinner than the 1/4 inch called for. I aimed for 1/8 inch and they puffed up a tiny bit in the oven.
I would not hesitate to use this instead of graham cracker crumbs the next time I was in need of a pie crust.

I would say that these had a lot more flavor than store bought graham crackers and a slightly more rustic texture. They were more substantial and much tastier overall. I would make them again in a heartbeat. I also discovered that they stay crispy when stored for several days in a airtight container, which is great because I can't imagine wanting to eat a mushy graham cracker!

The recipe was also used on an episode of Sweet Dreams. I've copied it below with my (minor) alterations, but the original can be found here.

Homemade Graham Crackers
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a food processor, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 30 seconds or so. Add the honey, molasses, water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough startes to come together in a ball, another 30 seconds. Scrape dough out of the mixer.
Between 2 sheets of waxed or parchment paper, roll the dough 1/8-inch thick. Chill for at least 1 hour, until firm (I chilled for several hours).
Preheat oven to 350F. Retrieve dough and roll it a bit more if it is not yet 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 2-inch squares. Arrange the crackers on parchment lined baking sheets. With a toothpick, prick several holes in each cracker.
Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan.
Yield: 48 crackers

Note: If you cut the dough through but leave the squares together, you can break them up after they're baked, just like a store-bought graham!