Graham crackers are often dismissed as plain and simple. This really isn’t an unfair description, but plain and simple doesn’t automatically mean boring. Quite the contrary, if you ask me, and there is perhaps no food that better epitomizes my childhood.
True to my nature of re-imagining recipes, these grahams feature more nutritious ingredients and a few twists, yet still maintain the basic character and flavor of the ones we grew up with.
(For the record, Bon Appetit, it’s graham cracker mush; not soup.)
My version is more assertively spiced, moving beyond traditional cinnamon with other warming spices like ginger, clove and nutmeg, and the sweetness comes from a blend of less refined turbinado sugar and bold, spicy blackstrap molasses.
I make them with powdery soft atta flour, an Indian whole grain flour similar to whole wheat pastry flour. If you can’t find atta (sourced from Asian or Indian markets), whole wheat pastry or spelt flours are suitable substitutions. Unbleached all-purpose flour is fine as a more conventional substitute. I recently had delicious success with a gluten-free version made with teff flour, and am keen to try my next batch using rye flour for its subtle nuttiness.
What’s in it for me?
Whole grain atta flour is the result of very finely stone-grinding semi-hard Durum or Gehun (a type of Indian wheat) berries with the nutritious bran, germ and endosperm intact, thereby retaining the natural healthy oils, minerals and vitamins. It is nearly fat-free, contains no cholesterol or sodium, and offers roughly 4 grams each of protein and fiber per 1/4 cup (30 g). Atta flour is also a great source of the antioxidant nutrient selenium, and of manganese to promote nutrient absorption and healthy bones.
As an ingredient superfine atta flour makes wonderfully tender whole grain baked goods with a light brown hue and an ever-so-slight sweetness. You’ll most commonly see it used in Indian and Pakistani flatbreads, such as chapati, roti, paratha and puri, and I’ve personally had success using it for tortillas, waffles, and pizza dough.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, extra virgin olive oil provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, while the processing methods of blackstrap molasses preserve many nutrients of the sugarcane it’s made from, including potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, and, most notably, iron. Beyond flavor and spice, cloves and cinnamon may help promote skin health with natural antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and nutmeg is commonly considered an aphrodisiac for men…
Beautifully browned, with that characteristic snappy crispness, this is without a doubt one of the easiest and most pleasing cookie recipes. As written below it’s both vegan and dairy-free, and as you read above, the flours are adaptable to a variety of dietary restrictions or choices.
Keep this in your back pocket, because homemade grahams are always delicious. Always comforting. Never boring.
Tell me… What food reminds you of your childhood?
- 1 1/2 cups atta flour -- or whole wheat pastry flour (see HGN Notes for other alternatives)
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar -- or regular granulated white sugar, if you prefer
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground if you have whole nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- scant 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup mild olive oil (see HGN Notes)
- 2 Tbsp unsulfured blackstrap molasses
- 1 tsp good quality pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed (see HGN Notes)
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking try with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper; set aside.
- In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients (through salt). Make a well in the center and pour in the oil, molasses and vanilla. Whisk the liquid ingredients in the center briefly with a fork, then gradually bring dry ingredients in from the side until everything is incorporated. The dough will be crumbly at this point.
- Drizzle in the water (or milk of choice) and work the dough briefly with the fork. Switch to your clean hands, and knead 1 minute or until the dough will come together in a soft ball. You may need to add an additional 1 Tbsp of the liquid depending on flours and the environment.
- Place the ball onto a clean work surface dusted with a bit of flour. Shape it into a rough, flat rectangle with your hands, and dust both the top of the dough and a rolling pin lightly with flour. Working from the middle to the edges, turning 90° every several strokes, roll the dough into a large rectangle approximately 10 x 14 inches and 1/8-inch thick.
- For the classic rectangle shape, use a sharp paring knife to cut the dough into 8 to 12 crackers. [You can trim the jagged edges off for perfect rectangles if you like, but I typically leave them for a "homemade" look. (The scraps can be re-rolled to make more grahams.)] Use a thin spatula to transfer each to your prepared baking try. (You may find it necessary to coat the spatula with oil or cooking spray to facilitate this.) With a fork, lightly score each 4 times in 2 columns.
- For a shaped graham, simply cut out shapes and transfer to the lined tray as indicated above. Quickly roll up the scraps, careful not to work too much, and cut out as many more as you can get. Score a few times with your fork.
- Bake on the middle rack for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. A shorter bake time will yield a softer graham; longer, a delicate crispy graham. Cool completely on the baking sheet, then store up to 1 week in a tightly sealing container. Freezes well, but are very fragile.
No need to purchase a fancy bottle of olive oil, but one that's fruitier, as opposed to very spicy or "olive-y," would be recommended.
You’re free to vary the liquid as desired to meet your dietary needs — water, cow’s milk, or any of the non-dairy plant-based alternatives, including coconut milk, will all work well.
Recipe adapted from Post Punk Kitchen.
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