Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Homemade Graham Crakers

Making something from scratch is really satisfying. Especially if that something turns out delicious. And you didn't have to remove it from it's bag-within-a-box (is that like a dream within a dream?). And it is healthy for your family. And, therefore, it makes you feel like Martha Stewart could learn a thing or two from you. 
I bet Martha fed her kid graham crackers out of a box. 
I mean, her dogs probably eat treats handcrafted in a small village in Northern Italy. But I bet Alexis ate good ol' Honey Maid when she came off of the bus from Kindergarten. 
And my kids have, too. I mean, who has the time? AND making snacks from home seems weird.As I have run across recipes for everything from crackers to chips to Hostess cakes online, I always end up thinking to myself, "Yeah, but they don't taste like the real thing, I bet." 
The REAL THING!? Meaning what, brain? That a homemade Twinkie won't taste like a factory-made one? DUH! That's because there isn't one "real" ingredient in a Twinkie! I swear, sometimes I'm so infuriating. 
The good news is that most homemade snacks I have made have turned out better than their packaged-a-decade-ago-and-gathering-dust-on-the-supermarket-shelf counterparts with surprising little effort (these crackers mix and bake up in no time!). And, once again, knowing that they were made 1) by my hands and 2) without ingredients that I can't even pronounce let alone tell you what they are for feels great! 
While I am on this small-but-obnoxious soapbox, let me share just one Honey Maid Graham Cracker ingredient, the one that jumped out at me first (well, second, if you don't count SOYBEAN OIL AND/OR PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, which I never do. [By the way, how is it an AND/OR situation? Do they really not know which gross hydrogenated oil they add to each batch? Is it a SURPRISE! kind of thing?]): Soy Lecithin. Made from genetically modified crops (healthy!), Soy Lecithin is extracted from soybeans either mechanically or chemically using hexane (a liquid hydrocarbon most often used in cleaning agents!). It acts as an emulsifier or a raising agent to a cracker like Honey Maid's Grahams, ensuring that things won't crumble and separate no matter how long those bad boys sit on your shelf (hungry yet?)! Don't you love learning new things?
I realize that avoiding things like this, for me, at least, is completely out of the question at this point in my life (a girl can dream...), but I am all for taking a break from the Soy Lecithins of the world whenever I get the opportunity. Especially if that opportunity comes in the form of spending a fun afternoon with my girls in the kitchen, and ends with a delicious treat.

Because of my interest in making things at home that I would usually buy in the store, I immediately fell in love and had to own this book when I came across it.  That is where this graham cracker recipe comes from. And just in case you are thinking to yourself, "Ick, I bet that doesn't taste like the real thing," I have to tell you, you are absolutely right. They are better.

If you're feeling super cool (I usually am), turn your homemade crackers into s'mores! Did I mention that Alana has a great homemade marshmallow recipe in her book?
Graham Crackers
from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila
Makes 45 to 50 2x3-inch Crackers
  •  1 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (I used light brown with a tsp of molasses)
  • 3 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 Tbs shortening, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 Tbs honey
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
 In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flours with the salt, baking soda, baking powder, 1 tsp of the cinnamon, and the brown sugar. Mix using paddle attachment for 10 seconds. Add butter and shortening and mix on medium for 30 seconds.

In a measuring cup, combine honey, vanilla and 1/4 cup cold water until the honey is mostly dissolved. With the mixer running on medium-low, slowly pour the honey mixture into the bowl. Continue to mix an additional 20 seconds. The dough will still be a little crumbly. Push the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper (or plastic wrap), and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days (or freeze here to use later).

Take the dough out of the fridge 20 minutes before you are ready to bake. Preheat your oven to 350. Cut the dough in half and lay one half between two sheets of wax or parchment paper dusted with rye flour. Roll the dough as thin as you can get it, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a pizza wheel, crinkle cutter or knife, cut 2x3-inch rectangles. Use a spatula to separate the rectangles from the paper and set them onto an ungreased baking sheet. The crackers won't spread, so you can place them very close together. Reroll scraps and repeat (or just have your children help you- if they are anything like mine they will use the rolling pin twice, and spend the rest of their time as Mommy's Special Helper eating up dough scraps when your back is turned)- then repeat with the second half of the dough.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon with the granulated sugar, and sprinkle the crackers with the mixture (I may have doubled... okay, tripled this part. But there were a lot of crackers to cover!). Prick each cracker several times with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes, or until just beginning to brown at the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container for up to 10 days, or freeze unbaked dough for  months, thaw, roll and bake whenever.

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