Monday, September 3, 2012

Homemade Graham Crackers

It's the simple things in life.

That often bring us the greatest pleasure.

Homemade graham crackers and milk:  wholesome simplicity.

Soon after joining the Secret Recipe Club last August, I began to realize how much I look forward to each reveal day (that wonderful day each month where members of the club reveal whose blog they were secretly assigned and which "secret recipe" from the "secret blog" they prepared). 

This month I was assigned to the amazing blog/website of Katherine Martinelli.  While I like to write stories and anecdotes about the food I prepare, Katherine is a TRUE food writer.   She has an incredible number of food and travel articles which have been published globally and is a regular contributor to publications on three continents.  Katherine's photography is phenomenal and her site is so very, very professional.  While she's a native New Yorker, Katherine and her husband currently live in Be'er Sheva, Israel.   Browsing her site ignited my deep pangs of desire to visit the birthplace of my faith.  Katherine writes of the markets in Israel, and her post about the culinary tour of Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market (which ends with preparing a meal in the tour guide's state-of-the art kitchen using the ingredients purchased at the market. Heaven!) had me checking flight prices and trying to learn to say things like "how much?" in Hebrew.

Scrolling through Katherine's recipe index is like thumbing through the pages of Bon Appetit.  Gorgeous, flavorful ingredients unite, and recipes are aptly described by a enjoyable union of Katherine's words.

Her site is incredible.  Inspiring.  A visual (and mental) feast. 

So how did I choose (only) one recipe to prepare?

Having recently made a promise to myself and my family to eliminate most processed foods from our diet, I knew I had found my Secret Recipe Club project when I saw Katherine's post for homemade graham crackers.

The recipe begins by cutting butter into a mixture of two types of flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt.

Crumbs will begin to hold together nicely.

Add a fragrant mixture of molasses and honey.

Followed by milk and vanilla,

Resulting in a stiff yet easy-to-work-with dough.

Form half of the dough into a rectangular block...

And then roll it out (between two pieces of parchment paper--very important),  trying to retain the rectangular shape.  Dough should be 1/4" thick at the most.  Thinner dough = crispier crackers.

I used a ruler as a guide to trim the dough and to make my cuts.

And I had fun making different designs as I pierced the dough with a fork.

Not one to be hemmed in by how things are "supposed" to look, I got out my fall-themed cookie cutters and went to town.

Bake at 350 degrees on parchment paper for 18-22 minutes, or until the crackers' edges begin to slightly darken. 

The crackers will harden as they cool, yielding that satisfying cracker "crunch."

Such a wonderful treat. 

And this?  This was fantastic.  By far the best s'more I've ever had.

The leaf-shaped s'mores were immensely popular among my toughest critics...

These guys.

(And making these graham crackers at home with everyday, identifiable ingredients as opposed to this:
 proved to be very satisfying.)  

Enjoy these!

And thank you, Katherine for being so good at what you do.  You're an inspiration to me.

Printable Recipe

Cinnamon Graham Crackers
Yield depends on shape/size of crackers prepared 

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour (plus extra flour for rolling surface)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (divided)
1/3 cup chilled, unsalted butter, cut into pieces (about 5 and 1/3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

(This recipe uses a fair amount of parchment paper.)

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, and 1/3 cup of the sugar until well-combined.  Using a pastry cutter or two forks, "cut in" the butter into the flour mixture until the dough consists of coarse crumbs.  (You can also do this in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.)

Grease a measuring cup with a small amount of canola (or grapeseed) oil.  Measure the honey and molasses into the cup then pour the honey and molasses into the flour/butter mixture. The syrups should slide right out of the greased measuring cup.  Use a sturdy spoon to roughly combine the ingredients.

Mix the vanilla into the milk and pour it into the dough.  Stir to combine into a stiff dough (it will be crumbly but should hold together).  

Mix the cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

On a countertop or other flat work surface, lay a sheet of parchment paper.  Sprinkle a very small amount of flour on the center of the parchment paper.  Divide the dough into two equal amounts.  Place one section of dough on the parchment paper (on top of the flour) and shape it into a rough rectangle. Set another sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough and then roll it out with a rolling pin, trying to maintain the rectangular shape as much as possible, until the dough is about 1/4" thick--no thicker.  (Thicker crackers won't be as crisp.)  If the parchment paper is sticking terribly to the dough, sprinkle the dough lightly with flour.

Once the dough is rolled out, fold the parchment paper up and over the dough and transfer it to a baking sheet.  Repeat the rolling technique with the second half of the dough.  Refrigerate the loosely-covered dough for at least 15 minutes, longer if your kitchen is warm and/or humid. Chilled dough is the key for completing the following steps successfully.

Once the dough is well-chilled and slightly stiff, sprinkle half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture over the surface of the dough.  You can lightly roll the rolling pin over the cinnamon/sugar mixture to gently press it into the dough.  Use a sharp knife and a ruler to cut the dough into shapes.  (Store-bought graham crackers are approximately 5" by 2.5", if you want to replicate them.)  Or use cookie cutters.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a thin spatula, transfer the cut dough to the parchment-lined baking sheets. (Leave a 1/2" space between each cracker.)  Freeze the crackers for about 10-15 minutes. 

Bake crackers for 18-22 minutes or until just browned at the edges.  Allow crackers to rest for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer them to a cooling rack.  The crackers will harden as they cool. 

Recipe from Katherine Martinelli (method slightly adapted)


Katie @ This Chick Cooks said...

What a delicious looking recipe. My son would LOVE those crackers- especially as s'mores. We also have tried to eliminate processed foods as well :)

Ginny said...

Thanks, Katie. I made two batches, and my kids have eaten them all--in only 3 days!

Eliminating processed foods can be tricky, but it's one of those things that just feels so right.

Lisa~~ said...

Wow, your graham crackers rock and I can only guess at how much better they taste compared to boxed. Wish I was enjoying one now.

If you haven't already, I'd love for you to check out my SRC entry: Fried Green Tomatoes.

Cook Lisa Cook

Katherine Martinelli said...

Oh Ginny thank you for this sweet post! You really have made my day. I am so glad that you like my blog and website, and really happy that the graham crackers came out - most importantly that your sons liked them :-) They really do make the best smores ever. And if you do make it over here let me know, I'd love to be your tour guide (or at least give some recommendations)! Have a great week.

Melissa @IWasBornToCook said...

These look great! The cookie cutter ones are terrific for kids.

Liz @ The Lemon Bowl said...

Can not wait to make these!! I've been looking for a homemade graham cracker recipe!!

Gretchen (Veggie Grettie) said...

I have always wanted to make homemade graham crackers!

Lisa said...

Those s'mores look sooo good!

Margaret said...

I find myself using fewer 'packaged' foods all the time. How great to make your own graham crackers. I see lots of s'mores in your future.

Erin Southwell said...

Hey Ginny!

These look AMAZING, I can't wait to try them with Wynn! Graham crackers and milk has always been a comfort food of mine since childhood and I love to eliminate processed foods when I can.

Isabelle @ Crumb said...

These look fabulous. I've had Katherine's recipe bookmarked for ages, and now I'm extra-excited to try them out!
And how awesome is it to know that the homemade version not only tastes better than the store-bought, it's also free of all those scary-sounding additives?

Trisha said...

I've been meaning to make these crackers for the longest time ever but somehow have never gotten around to doing it. They look absolutely fantastic and homemade is always better than store bought. I can't wait to try these out!

Lesa @Edesias Notebook said...

Wow, those look really tasty! I love the cookie cutter ones and the fact that you made smores with them. Great idea!

Evelyne CulturEatz said...

I love discovering recipes for the basics we would normally buy. Graham crackers are so awesome, got to try this recipe. It was a pleasure having you this month as my SRC.