Graham crackers were originally created to be a health food, containing whole wheat flour, wheat bran, and wheat germ. Despite that they still contain “graham flour,” which is a whole wheat flour consisting of those elements, it’s hard to argue that the wafers sold by many commercial companies are really all that nutritious. Nonetheless, they are still popular as crusts for cheesecake and key lime pie, as s’mores of course, and as a frequent snack in daycares and preschools.
When my little son isn’t at daycare, I do my best to cook from scratch for my him because I like to know what he is eating and everything tastes better when made with love, right? So I was thinking back to 8 years ago when I first starting cooking my way through Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. It was my project for quite awhile to bake every recipe in that book. I had to give it up because buying butter in bulk at Costco got old and life just got in the way, but it is a task I hope to complete. Someday.
Anyway, I remembered that I had once made graham crackers from scratch and even found some notes in the margins of my trusty cookbook urging me to make them again sometime, since the first time around I mostly used the dough to make a crust for a key lime tart. So I decided to revive this recipe.
Making graham crackers is totally worthwhile but isn’t the quickest endeavor. It took about 2 to 3 hours of my afternoon to complete. The first hurdle was finding graham flour. Surprisingly, I ended up getting it at Walmart. The bag actually said whole wheat flour but the label under it said “graham flour” so I looked a little closer at the bag and it had the story of Reverend Graham who first created this food. I understand you can make your own graham flour by combining white flour with wheat bran and wheat germ; I haven’t personally tried this to see the outcome.
Making graham crackers starts off like most cookie doughs, by combining the dry ingredients in a bowl, then creaming butter, brown sugar, and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer. The dry ingredients are then added to the mixing bowl until the mixture is well combined. A somewhat dry dough is the result.
The dough is then separated into 4 sections, each of which is rolled out into a 1/8-inch thin slab between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Use the parchment paper. I tried to skip that step but quickly realized that like graham crackers, the dough is crumbly and would easily break when rolling it out with the rolling pin unless stuck between the parchment paper.
Once the dough is rolled out, it should be cut with a pastry wheel into an approximately 9×6-inch rectangle. Within that rectangle each piece should be lightly scored with the pastry wheel so that the graham crackers can be broken on the lines after they’re baked. If you don’t have a pastry wheel you can use a butter knife, but the edges won’t be quite as decorative.
Once all the dough is rolled out and cut into rectangles, the dough, sandwiched in parchment, can be stacked in a layer and should be frozen for 20 minutes, until firm. The dough is then removed from the freezer, and pierced with the tines of a fork, then baked on an ungreased cookie sheet (still on parchment) until golden brown, for approximately 15 to 18 minutes.
After they’re fully cooled, the graham crackers can be broken into individual pieces along the perforations made from the pastry wheel.
I’ll admit these treats do not taste exactly like graham crackers. Their buttery flavor elicits notes of a shortbread cookie but there is definitely an essence of graham cracker while you’re chewing. If you use it for a pie crust it’ll taste even better than the usual graham cracker crust. I love them. And my son loved them too. I kind of wish he didn’t know the word cookie already, but at least if he is going to be asking for cookies, I’m happy to share my own baking with him. And they’re a health food, right?
Graham Crackers (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)
Yield: approximately 48 graham crackers
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 cups graham flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1. Combine the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and honey on medium speed until creamy. Slowly add in the flour mixture, beating on low speed, until fully combined.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into four equal pieces. Between two pieces of parchment paper, roll out each piece of dough until about 1/8-inch thick. With a pastry wheel, cut the edges into a 9×6-inch rectangle. Within the rectangle, lightly score the dough to form individual crackers in desired size. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
4. After all the dough has been rolled and cut out, stack the dough/parchment layers on a baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes, until firm.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the dough from the freezer and prick in a decorative pattern with a fork. Place onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until dark golden brown. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool, prior to breaking into individual crackers.