Before moving to Israel I had never considered making my own graham crackers (similar to digestive crackers for you Brits). But, like so many products from home, they are unavailable here. And so, like many of my favorite take-out meals, I set out to make them at home. Graham crackers have an interesting history. According to Wikipedia (so, you know, grain of salt), they were invented in 1829 as “Dr. Graham’s Honey Biskets” by Reverend Sylvestor Graham. It was all part of a bland diet that he marketed to try to suppress evil carnal urges (the same theory, by the way, behind Kellog’s corn flakes). This entry also says that you don’t technically have graham crackers without graham flour, another invention of Reverend Graham. So if you want to be technical, I didn’t make graham crackers since graham flour is not widely available outside the United States. But you could have fooled me.
Making graham crackers turned out to be easier than I thought. There are lots of recipes out there. Alton Brown‘s looks pretty authentic as it does indeed call for graham flour. Although Deb of Smitten Kitchen and Heidi of 101 Cookbooks both swear by Nancy Silverton’s recipe, for some reason I couldn’t trust one without molasses. To me the flavor of a graham cracker is akin to crispy gingerbread that’s been sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, and that requires molasses. I ended up going with the recipe I’d been eyeing from the beginning, from an incredible book called Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it and Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomon. Seriously, I love this book. Go buy it. You won’t be sorry.
Solomon uses both whole wheat and all-purpose flour to replicate the taste and texture of graham flour, which worked for me. To that she adds cold butter, honey, molasses, sugar, milk, and vanilla. It’s all combined into a very stiff dough that’s rolled out nice and thin and cut into squares, rectangles, or whatever shapes you want. It’s no more work than making any other kind of cookie, and in the end people are imminently impressed that you made something they’ve only ever seen in a box on a supermarket shelf. Even better, it tastes like the real thing! Be careful to roll out the dough evenly and try not to have it thicker than 1/4-inch. Although they’re still good, thicker crackers don’t get the same nice crisp around the edges. These make great gifts (yes, wrapped with a cute bow) and also fulfill my New Year’s resolution to start making more diy food items at home.
- 1½ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ⅓ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- ¼ cup good quality honey
- ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup whole milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Put the flours, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl and mix together until well combined.
- Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut in the butter until the dough is the consistency of coarse crumbs.
- Add the honey, molasses, and ⅓ cup of the sugar and combine.
- Add the milk and vanilla and work to bring it into a stiff dough (it will be slightly crumbly but should hold its form).
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon. Set aside.
- Split the dough in half. Shape the first half into a rectangle and put in the center of a piece of parchment paper.
- Lay another sheet of parchment paper over the dough and roll out, trying to maintain a rectangle, until ¼-inch thick.
- Cut the dough into the sizes/shapes you want (a ruler is handy here). Lightly prick all over with a fork.
- Sprinkle evenly with half the cinnamon-sugar and roll gently into the top of the dough with a rolling pin.
- Re-cut if necessary. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the crackers to the prepared baking sheets, leaving a bit of space in between each.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and cinnamon-sugar.
- Freeze the crackers for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.
- Bake the chilled crackers for 18 to 22 minutes, or just until lightly browned at the edges. (They will harden slightly as they cool.)
- Cool completely and enjoy. Crackers can be stored in an air-tight container for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 2 months (allow to thaw for 2 hours before eating).