Thursday, March 11, 2010

Graham Crackers

When just four Ritz crackers caused me to swell for several days, I knew my store cracker days were over. But oh how I love the vegetable flavored Ritz and those buttery rich Clubs - divine. They're especially good with a slice of cheddar cheese. What's a girl to do? I know, I know but for some reason I just don't want to have to make my own. Silly maybe since I'm making butter, cheese, bread, and a gillion other things. Maybe that's the problem, I feel overwhelmed. But after this last time when I swelled up so much with so few, I knew there wasn't a choice.

I figured I'd start with a couple I use to make when the kids were young. Graham crackers of course which was a favorite of our kids and mine. Who's mother didn't spread left over frosting on a graham cracker and then put another one on top to form a sandwich? I did that the other day. The frosting was mint flavored. Oh yeah, it was goo...d.

I don't use graham flour because it's not available in our area. I'd buy it once so I could see how much difference in flavor it had compared to my home ground whole wheat. Maybe it tastes more like white wheat, more mild. Anyone use it and can help me out here?

Though graham flour is less processed than white since they grind the endosperm, then the germ and bran and mix them. I'm sorry Mr. Sylvester Graham, father of the graham cracker, but why all the bother? I guess I don't know since I've never tried any. Apparently Honey Maid is the only graham cracker making theirs with graham flour anymore. I don't know what the rest of the pack is doing. It really doesn't matter because they are using highly refined corn sweeteners and other cheap types of garbage. I bet Sylvester Graham isn't happy since the whole point of his graham cracker was to give kids a healthy snack.

But why not just grind some white wheat and make a good for you cracker - no refining involved in the flour? Can anyone tell me about the difference in the flavor of graham flour versus white wheat? I do suggest using white wheat versus spring or winter wheat when making graham crackers so the wheat flavor isn't quite as strong.

I found a way to tone it down further as the wheat flavor can overwhelms the honey taste. This is a graham cracker after all not a wheat thin. Leave the dough in the refrigerator at least over night. The ingredients meld and form a chemical reaction that tones down the wheat and plays up the honey. I made mine Sunday and didn't get back to the project until Tuesday. A bit long because the texture of the dough had changed to the point that the crispness of the cracker was gone. Typically if you roll the dough out a little thicker you have a soft cookie and thinner a crisp cracker. Soft cookie was all I got.

I like mine cut into shapes instead of the boring squares rectangles that are traditional. Sometimes I add a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar and sometimes not. I made them both ways. Not on purpose mind you but because the first cookie sheet in the oven I'd forgotten. They're good both ways but kids usually favor the cinnamon and sugar on top.

The cutter used most often for these graham crackers when the kids were young was our teddy bear one. Then when Teddy Grahams came out, I told our children that these were just a home made version. Sometimes I used the tiny cutters, the ones you see used on pie crusts and they make great pop in your mouth sized ones just a bit larger than the stores.

I bought some Teddy Grahams from the store as they came in handy during math to teach subtraction. You have ten Teddy Grahams, eat two and what do you have? Yup, those math lessons were a favorite and addition was great too as long as subtraction followed. What was even better was when we used cinnamon bears by Sweet's. They are so good and were a rare treat in math since the health conscious mom that I am refused to use them on large numbers like ten.

I think our oldest grand daughter is about ready for those math lessons. She counts quite well and seems to have a pretty good grasp of numbers being associated with objects. Subtraction just might become a favorite of hers too.

All this talk about Teddy Grahams has just sparked my imagination. Not just about math but why not make chocolate home made Teddy Grahams. I've got tiny teddy bear cutters and ... You know the saying, "Anything they can do, I can do better." Wouldn't be hard considering I'm working with fresh ground wheat and honey from our own bees. Almost forgot, use a mild honey in this recipe like a clover honey. A tip, usually the lighter colored honeys are milder in flavor.

When I looked up graham crackers on the Internet I ran across one by Alton Brown. His has molasses. I was thinking that mine should be tweaked and the sugar level dropped a bit. Molasses has a stronger sweet flavor. I bet the addition of a tablespoon to a 1/4 of a cup would allow me to decrease the brown sugar. Mmm...

Also since I'm not going to be able to eat all these crackers, I think I'll just throw some in the blender and use them to make a graham cracker crust for that freezer cheesecake I've been wanting to try. Yup, the minds a whirling now.
2 cups whole wheat (white wheat preferably)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
Now I've already changed the original recipe and used butter instead of shortening which I do when ever possible. I have a couple cookie recipes that don't work with butter. They don't sit as well on my stomach.

What would happen if I changed the sugars. I need help at this point so chime in.

How about 1/4 a cup of molasses with the 1/3 cup of honey then dropping the brown sugar to a 1/3 a cup. I wanted to drop the over all sugar level to make it more of a cracker taste not a cookie. Alton Brown's recipe calls for molasses and no honey so what would happen if I combined the two? I'm adding more liquid with molasses so I need to drop the milk. How about to a 1/3 cup with 2 Tablespoons. I can adjust the flour when I roll it out as I always roll the dough out thick move it over, spread out some more flour and then flip it over so the dough doesn't incorporate with the first amount of flour on the counter and stick. Then I sprinkle a little white flour on top the dough also. I use my marble rolling pin instead of my French one because the dough doesn't stick as easily to it. Maybe I wouldn't have to do this when I change the recipe.

Now if that isn't crispy enough, what if I drop the baking soda by 1/4 teaspoon. For every cup of honey you have to have 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in a recipe to combat the acidic nature of honey.
Okay then we have
2 cups whole white wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 and maybe altered to 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (cut into 1/4 inch slices chilled)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk with 2 tablespoon

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter like in making pie then add the sugars-brown sugar, molasses and honey- and the vanilla. Slowly stir in the milk as you mix the dough together. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and roll out to a 1/8 inch crispy thickness or a more cookie like at 1/4 inch thickness on a well floured surface and cut into shapes. Ball the remaining dough up and roll out again cutting it into shapes once more. Bake the cracker dough shapes on a greased cookie sheet and at 350 Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes says my original recipe but Alton Brown's says 25. I say cook till done or until the edges start to slightly turn brown.

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