Now that I’m all into preschool lunches, it seemed like a good time to try out homemade graham crackers.
What are graham crackers, anyway? Sure, they come in a blue box with yellow writing … but what makes a graham a graham? According to Wikipedia, graham crackers were invented by Rev. Sylvester Graham, an early pioneer of health food. (He apparently had some pretty strange theories about how to be healthy … but I won’t get into those now … or ever.) The crackers were made with “graham flour,” which is a combination of unbleached-wheat flour and coarsely-ground wheat bran and germ.
As it turns out, graham flour is hard to find. I checked three different grocery stores in my area and none carried it. So for this recipe, I opted for a mixture of whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and wheat germ.
You can usually find wheat germ in the cereal aisle (down by the hot cereal, usually on a lower shelf). The jar looks like this:
All the other ingredients are pretty standard: salt, baking soda, butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla, honey, and milk.
There are a ton of recipes for homemade graham crackers on Pinterest that use some combination of these ingredients and/or others. The recipe by Nancy Silverton and approved of by Smitten Kitchen seems to be the most popular.
And while I absolutely adore Smitten Kitchen, her suggested recipe for graham crackers is, well, a bit fussy. For one thing, you have to “cut in” the butter with either a food processor or electric mixer, and for another thing, you have to chill the dough for 2 hours before rolling it out, and then again for 45 minutes after cutting the cookies! While I will go to such lengths for fancy French pastry, it just doesn’t seem right for little ‘ol kid cookies. (See Exhibit A, Graham cracker cutout cookie “decorated” by my 4-year-old son.)
With this in mind, I wanted my recipe for homemade graham crackers to be EASY (read: one that you and I might actually make from time to time).
So that’s what I’ve done. For this recipe, you need only one bowl for the dough and no special equipment whatsoever. The recipe is flexible, too: you can make thumbprint cookies, animal tracks, or cutouts (or all three!) with the same basic dough. Doesn’t that sound like fun? I hope so, as that’s how I believe cooking — especially cooking with kids — should be.
Homemade Graham Crackers
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons honey
1/3 cup milk or half-n-half
Place both flours, wheat germ, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add melted butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla, honey, and milk to the same bowl.
Stir until the mixture comes together into a ball of dough. The mixture will be thick and sticky; use your hands to bring it together if needed. Knead it a few times in the bowl and then form it into a large ball.
You can make the cookies immediately, or you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for up to one week.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into four sections; this will make it easier to work with. Working with one section at a time, shape or cut out the cookies.
For thumbprint cookies: Pinch off pieces of dough and form it into round balls. Place a Hershey’s Kiss or Chocolate Baking Melt in the center and press down. Or fill the center with your favorite jam. Place the cookie on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with remaining dough. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Slightly thicker cookies may need 1-2 more minutes in the oven.
For animal print cookies: Pinch off pieces of dough and form it into a flat “foot” shape. Use your fingers to make indentations where you want the paw print to be. Fill the indentations with jam, raisins, or chocolate chips. Place the cookie on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with remaining dough. Place cookies on the parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Slightly thicker cookies may need 1-2 more minutes in the oven.
For cutout cookies: Roll out the dough on a floured-work surface. For crisp cookies (more like store-bought graham crackers), roll the dough to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out various shapes; delicately transfer each shape to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake these small, thin cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Slightly thicker cookies may need 1-2 more minutes in the oven.
Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to a drying rack. They will be soft when they come out of the oven but will harden a bit as they cool. Serve warm or room temperature with a big hug and a glass of milk!