Years ago when I was still in the very beginning stages of my Product Purity campaign, I distinctly remember holding up a box of store-bought graham crackers to look at the ingredient list to see if they would pass the test and immediately slumped my shoulders. Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.
I have always loved graham crackers – especially the overly cinnamon-sugared ones – oh, and key lime pies with a graham cracker crust – so what was I going to do now? I tried “organic” ones but they left me cold with and a chemical taste that most unpleasantly lingered on my tongue. So, there it was: another challenge for a homemade version of my childhood favorite. I finally got around to tackling graham crackers last year. Hey, it only took me what? Five years?
The final round of testing and tweaking came about the other night when one of our friends was visiting. We all nibbled on one (or two), still warm from the oven, when David blurted out, “Did you know that graham crackers were invented to decrease libido?”
Why, no. No, I didn’t! Do tell.
A Google search confirmed his statement. Apparently, the Reverend Sylvester Graham, an American dietary reformer and the inventor of the graham cracker, embraced the temperance movement and preached that a bland diet (like his version of the digestive biscuit) was a cure for sexual urges. And, get this – Wikipedia continues with a concise summary of said dude’s non-philandering philosophy: “The main thrust of his teachings was to curb lust.”
Personally, I think it’s funny that a guy who practiced abstinence as a better way of life was the 17th child in his family (at least that’s what I’ve read).
And so you know, these graham crackers are anything but bland. They’re slightly spicy, slightly sweet and have that distinct graham cracker taste. But, I promise you, they won’t lead you down the primrose path.
The Stock Pot: Homemade Graham Crackers
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons cold shortening, preferably non-hydrogenated
- For the topping:
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Combine the honey, milk, molasses and vanilla in a measuring cup. Whisk until combined and smooth.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, add the flours, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and brown sugar. Pulse to combine. Add in the butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add in the honey/milk mixture and pulse just until the dough comes together. Dump the dough onto a floured piece of parchment paper and pat into a ball; divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate until the dough is firm, at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll out the dough on a floured piece of parchment paper into a rectangle, about ⅛-inch thick. It’s a somewhat sticky dough, so dust with flour as necessary. Using a fluted pastry wheel, knife, or my personal favorite, a ravioli cutter, cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Gather and reroll any scraps. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up. Repeat with the remaining dough. Poke the tops of the cookies with the tines of a fork or a wooden skewer. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over each cookie. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Planning: The dough can be made and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking. I always bake one batch of cookies at a time for even cooking.
Product Purity: I use organic, non-hydrogenated shortening, available at whole foods markets. Pure vanilla extract is a must.