One of my favorite snacks growing up was a simple graham cracker with a schmear of creamy peanut butter. I fondly recall snacking on sleeves of Nabisco grahams with my Nana in front of the television in the kitchen at my grandparents’ house. I find the straight-forward honey graham cracker is the most versatile for baking (and a favorite for snacking), though a cinnamon graham is my favorite to eat plain. A chocolate graham has its place, too–especially with a large dollop of peanut butter or Nutella.
(The mixture of peanut butter and chocolate is my kryptonite, but that’s a story for another post.)
The graham cracker was invented in the 1820s by Rev. Sylvester Graham. Rev. Graham was a proponent of a high-fiber vegetarian diet. He developed the eponymous graham flour as a high-fiber alternative to the bleached white flours becoming popular in those times. Originally graham crackers were unsweetened crackers made with the whole wheat graham flour, but were later modified with sugar to suit modern tastes when they became more popular.
Graham crackers can be made at home. The dough is easy to mix up and can be rolled out easily if you treat the dough right. You can still buy graham flour today (I like King Arthur Flour’s), but it’s not necessary. I used a whole wheat pastry flour that I found at my grocery store, but regular whole wheat flour is equivalent if that’s what your grocery store has in stock.
Why make graham crackers at home when they’re so readily available at every grocery in America? If I can make something myself, I find I can more appreciate it more when I eat it from a commercial source. Also, if I can make it at home, I can add the flavors I like and make them in the shape I want.
My recipe is adapted from the graham cracker recipe in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.
The step-by-step recipe is after the jump.
Homemade Graham Crackers
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
5-1/4 oz (3/4 cup) light brown sugar
2 TBSP golden syrup (or honey)*
7-1/2 oz (1-1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
7-1/2 oz (1-1/2 cup) whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch (1/16 tsp) salt
* Lyle’s Golden Syrup (also known as pale treacle) can be found most often in the British food section in supermarkets featuring an international foods aisle. If you can’t find it, use honey. I like the caramel flavor of golden syrup, so I buy it in bulk.
- To the bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter, light brown sugar, and golden syrup. Beat together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- Whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the beaten butter-sugar mixture and beat just until all of the flour is incorporate and no lumps remain. (At this point, you can taste the dough–no eggs!)
- Remove the dough from the mixer and separate into 3 roughly equal clumps. Place the first dough portion on a sheet of parchment paper and cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough between the parchment to 1/8-inch thickness. (I use dough bandson my rolling pin–so easy!)
- Keep the dough between the parchment paper, and transfer to a sheet pan. Place the sheet pan with dough to the refrigerator to keep cold.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the remaining dough portions, stacking the dough on the sheet pan in the refrigerator. At this point, the sheet pan with dough can be wrapped with plastic wrap and kept in the fridge for up to 2 days to bake at a later time.
- When ready to bake the graham crackers, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.
- Using the cookie cutter of your choosing, cut shapes from the cold dough. (The dough will most likely stick to the cutters.) You can also cut the cookies into rectangles, and what you lose in luster, you gain in not having to re-roll the scrap dough! Place your cut out cookie dough onto a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
- Poke the tines of the fork all over the unbaked crackers. This is called docking, and prevents the dough from puffing while it bakes. (I used a dough docker to get the pattern shown in the photo.)
- Place the cookies into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until the crackers are evenly brown. They will appear relatively dark, but if they aren’t dark, the crackers will not be, well, crackers! They won’t have the crispness of crackers, and you will have baked a batch of very thin cookies.
- Repeat with the remaining dough. Gather the scraps and re-roll the dough.
- Once cooled, store the baked crackers in a sealed container so they retain their crispness.
Besides eating them plain, you can enjoy them with a little peanut butter or use them to make something spectacular. What spectacular things can you make with graham crackers? Check back next week. See how I hooked you?