Monday, December 16, 2013

Homemade Graham Crackers

As you know, I made myself a batch of homemade marshmallows with the intent of throwing them into mugs of hot chocolate. But, everyone knows, the main purpose of marshmallows (besides being the glue in rice krispies treats) is to make s'mores, right? I was digging through my pantry but we didn't have any graham crackers in the house and instead of running out to the store to get some (which would have taken all of 10 minutes) I decided to make them from scratch (which took several hours). Am I crazy? Maybe.
So I still remember learning about graham crackers in history class (I think it was sophomore year of high school) when we were discussing the Popular Health Movement and Andrew Jackson or something. We learned that some creepy minister invented graham crackers as a way to suppress the sexual appetites of his congregation. He believed that bland food would quell one's carnal urges. (FYI, Kellogg's corn flakes were created with a similar motive; if you ever wondered why they're so terribly bland). What a weirdo, huh? Anyway, graham crackers have evolved quite a bit since the 1700s; now they're sweet and more of a cookie than a cracker and they actually taste good. I think they might actually have the opposite effect than Graham intended, at least for me. TMI? Okay, then, let's move on.

Ingredients [makes 2 dozen crackers, depends on the size]:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
¼ cup cold butter (1/2 a stick)
3 tablespoons honey
1½ tablespoons molasses
¼ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
+ 1 tablespoon raw sugar
+ 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
+ ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Start by cubing up the butter and then chucking it in the freezer for 15 minutes to get it good and cold.

In a small bowl, combine the milk, honey, molasses, and vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Make sure the honey and molasses dissolve into the milk.
In a food processor, combine both the all purpose flour and whole wheat flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda. The reason for two types of flour? Originally, graham crackers were made with whole wheat flour entirely. While I appreciate the texture that whole wheat flour brings to a dough, it tends to be a bit... what's the word I'm looking for? Ah, yes, cardboardy. So, I like to use mostly all purpose flour and add in a bit of whole wheat flour for the textural element.
Add the cold butter to the food processor and pulse to combine until the texture is sand-like. Pour in the wet ingredients and pulse just long enough for a dough to come together.
The dough should be dense and slightly sticky.
Flour a piece of plastic wrap and dump the dough out. Gently press it into a disc, wrap it up, and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. If you want to let it sit overnight, that's fine too.
Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and roll it out to about 1/8" thick. Use plenty of flour, as the dough will be quite sticky.
Cut out the dough into squares, like traditional graham crackers, or you can use cookie cutters to make shapes of your choice.
Place the cut out cookies/crackers onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Use a pastry brush to dust off any excess flour and then use a toothpick to poke little steam holes into the dough. The holes will help the cookie stay flat instead of poofing up too much.
This bit is optional, but you can sprinkle the tops with a bit of cinnamon sugar, if you like.
Stir together some granulated sugar, raw sugar, and cinnamon.
Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a bit of the cinnamon sugar.
Chill the cut cookies in the freezer for approximately 15 minutes prior to baking.
Pop the chilled cookies into the oven and bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
Let the cookies cool on a wire rack before digging in.
Tomorrow, I'll share the s'mores. I had originally planned on sharing them today but this post just seems way too long already. Be patient and you shall be rewarded, folks.

Here's the recipe page:

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