Store-bought baked goods have a lot of special-interest groups to appease, like shelf life, shippability, sturdiness for packaging, and uniformity. Now I know that graham crackers are probably one of the best candidates to be mass-produced, because, well..they're just crackers, and by their nature, easily shipped and stored. But part of this little food crusade involves getting to know foods from their birth onward, so it's as good a target as any, and probably an easy way to start, right?
Not so much. My first attempt resulted in some pretty, umm.. grim crackers. It seems those conniving cracker crafters with the factories are more clever than they look. Let's look at grahams, shall we? Here are the store-bought, genetically pure little snack clones: And here are my grisly deformed little embarrassments, which should be hidden from public view like Rosemary Kennedy Graham for the shame they bring the family:
Oh the shame! It should really be removed humanely from this world, but it soldiers on, soggy and puffy and gross. What a sad sight.
Graham crackers, incidentally, were invented as part of Mr Graham's attempt to cure people of lustful carnal urges. No, for reals. My little guys aren't up to such puritanical tasks, I'm afraid, but they might leave you too grossed out to do anything naughty.
So where did I go wrong? I used the following recipe, stolen in good faith now from a little blog called Baking Sheet:
Homemade Graham Crackers
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a food processor, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 30 seconds or so. Add the honey, molasses, water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough startes to come together in a ball, another 30 seconds. Scrape dough out of the mixer. Between 2 sheets of waxed or parchment paper, roll the dough 1/8-inch thick. Chill for at least 1 hour, until firm
Preheat oven to 350F. Retrieve dough and roll it a bit more if it is not yet 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 2-inch squares. Arrange the crackers on parchment lined baking sheets. With a toothpick, prick several holes in each cracker.Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan.
My diagnosis of the graham-tastrophe is that I made these on a weekend whim, and left too much to chance. I used too much leavening, and then used a sheet pan without raised edges to contain the grahams, which left me with an insufficiently spread dough.I didn't fully separate the grahams before baking. And now I'm left with sad moist molasses-laden little atrocities. They're actually kind of tasty, in a not-sweet-enough-to-be-a-cookie way, truth be told, but grahams they are not, so I enjoy them secretly, when nobody's watching.
So I'm on to the second round, during which I'll re-consult on the recipes, invest in some proper grahaming equipment, and report back with results. Watch this space for a historically-accurate recipe and some scientific scrutiny of the matter.