Wednesday, February 27, 2013

DB: Homemade Graham Crackers

Do you ever find yourself wondering through the grocery store isles, eyeing different products and wondering "could I make them at home, and would they be just as good"?  Please tell me I'm not weird! Well, I know I'm weird but please tell me I'm not the only person that does this!  I don't know why this intrigues me so much, but thoughts like this enter my head on a regular basis when I'm at the grocery store.

Well, this month I got to cure some of my curiosity.  Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to use our creativity in making our own Crisp Flatbreads and Crackers!
Sarah shared quite a few recipe suggestions that all looked incredible, but I had been wanting to make graham crackers for quite some time.  So when this challenge came up, not only was it all about flatbreads and crackers but we were given free reign as to what particular recipe we wanted to make.  The only requirement; whatever it was had to be crisp.  I instantly knew what I wanted to make; I wanted to make homemade graham crackers. 
Graham crackers have long been snacks for kids and adults alike.  Their crumbs are also a staple in numerous pie recipes; the infamous graham cracker crust, of course.  They also make terrific accompaniments sweet dips and cheeseballs.  These crackers are a little more "durable" than most, so they can withstand some of the more hearty dips you throw their way. 

I think graham crackers are one of my all time favorite crackers.  There's just something so wonderful about a rich molasses flavored cracker that is dusted lightly with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.  I can't put my finger on it, but it's just amazing.  So imagine how amzing a homemade graham cracker is.  You know the joy you get in your heart, mouth and stomach when you enjoy a cookie fresh from the oven?  You will experience that same feeling when you make your own graham crackers and enjoy them straight from the oven.  Oh. My. Goodness.  There's little better than that pure deliciousness. 
Believe it or not, these crackers weren't hard to make at all.  Combine a few simple ingredients, that are typically pantry staples, to form a dough.  Chill the dough, roll it out and bake.  How simple is that?  It truly is simple, the only thing that makes this a time consuming process is the chilling time required.  But the chilling time is well needed to help form the dough to make those beautiful, deep brown crackers that are so amazing! 
These crackers really are incredibly easy to make.  I had so much fun making them and I really did impress myself!  I enjoy making treats at home because I have control of the ingredients, plus I can personalize them by making them in different shapes!  So stop putting it off because you're intimidated, go make some crackers and cut them into so fun shapes!   

Homemade Graham Crackers

For the crackers-
2 Cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour (use all white flour if you don't have whole wheat)
1 Cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 Tsp baking soda
3/4 Tsp Kosher salt
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 Cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 Tbsp milk, whole is best
2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

For the topping-
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tsp ground cinnamon


For the cracker dough-
In a food processor fitted with the blad attachment combine unbleached flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Pulse a few times to allow the ingredients to incorporate.  Add the frozen butter and pulse several times until the mixture is the consistency of course meal.

Combine honey, milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Once combined add to the flour mixture and pulse a few times, allowing the dough to barely come together.  (The dough will be extremely soft and sticky) 

Spread a large piece of plastic wrap on a counter and dust liberally with flour.  Turn dough onto the prepared surface, and pat gently to form a rectangle that's about 1 inch in thickness.  Wrap the rectangle in the plastic wrap, then place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. 

Meanwhile, to prepare the topping combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and stir to combine.  Set aside.

To prepare the crackers-
Divide the dough in half.  Place one half on a well floured work surface, and wrap the other half in plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator.  Roll the dough into a long rectangle that measures 1/8 of an inch in thickness.  The dough will be sticky, so continue to flour the surface and rolling pin as necassary. 

To make the traditional graham cracker shape, cut the rectangle to 4 inches wide.  Working with the shorter side of the rectangle, cut strips every 4 1/2 inches to make crackers.  However, if you want a non-traditional shaped cracker, you may use a cookie cutter of your choice.  I used a fluted rectangle.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper, and place the crackers on the prepared baking sheets.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping.  Place the crackers in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes or in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.  Repeat the process with the second batch of dough.  Gather any leftover scraps, form a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.  Re-roll and repeat the process.

Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350.

To decorate/mark the crackers-
Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form rows of dotted lines.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to touch, rotating half way through.  Be sure to check the crackers half way through, since baking times will vary.

Recipe source: Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from 101 Cookbooks and Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery

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