Graham crackers dunked in a glass of cold milk. I sure have missed this small, sweet treat at the end of an evening. There’s something humble about a graham cracker. (And terribly mis-named. These are only cracker in shape. Really, these are a slight sweet cookie.) It stands at your side, waiting for your attention. It doesn’t shout or shimmy, or demand more from you than you can give.
Graham crackers are quiet. Dependable as comfortable shoes. Always there.
Except, of course, if you are gluten-free. The only commercially sold, gluten-free graham crackers I have ever eaten are laden with too much sweetness. When I looked for graham crackers that taste faintly of honey, instead of cloying the mouth with it, I have run out of luck. I wanted a cracker that tasted something like a digestive biscuit, with a bit more cinnamon and kick to it.
I had to make it myself.
Here they are.
Little Bean and I have stood at the counter nearly every afternoon for the past two weeks, gathering the bags of flours, fluffing them into the scale, cutting up butter and listening to the particular pitch of the food processor when the dough reached the desired pliability. Every afternoon, Little Bean reached for the dough and slapped it with her small hand. I taught her that. I want her to know the feel of the dough, rather than a recipe in a book.
We baked some good graham crackers, some overly soft graham crackers (almond flour doesn’t do well by these), some powdery dry graham crackers, and some almost-there graham crackers. I’ve been teaching her about Goldilocks and the Three Bears this way. “This one was too wet. This one was too dry. This one was just right.”
Batch #6? We had it. I made slight variations on it the next days and I was done.
Little Bean has eaten graham crackers warm out of the oven every day this week.
Today, she had her first taste of s’more.
She started smiling as soon as it hit her lips.
Of course, graham crackers come in handy for crusts, too. This is a banana cream pudding pie, made this afternoon with the leftover scraps that didn’t look pretty from all these baking endeavors. Danny made it for us before he went to work.
And when I put this pie in place to take photographs this afternoon, Little Bean came running to me, pointing. “Pie! Pie! Pie!”
That’s our girl.
I’m glad that she’ll grow up with graham crackers.
Once you make these graham crackers a few times, I swear you could make them in your sleep. Don’t be put off by the number of steps. These are easy. Soon, you could be baking them every weekend.
A few words about the ingredients. I played with a number of flours, and these four worked best in our kitchen. If you can find super-fine brown rice flour, the graham crackers shouldn’t have a bit of grit to them. If you can’t find it, try putting some brown rice flour in your blender and running it for a few moments. That usually does the trick. If you can’t find these flours, then use the same weight of flour with your own combination until you find the ones that work for you.
You might notice that there is no sugar in these crackers. I’m playing with baking only with honey. Since honey is an essential taste in graham crackers, this was a natural. These graham crackers are only faintly sweet, which is how we like them. If you want more, try adding 2 ounces of dark brown sugar and taking out 1 ounce of the honey. See how that works for you.
If you use your favorite non-dairy butter substitute, these could be gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free! Start measuring.
Remember that I’ve been telling you about baking by weight? That baking by measuring ounces into a bowl perched on a kitchen scale makes everything more creative? This recipe is a prime example. Even, for me, a painful example.
You see, I tested every batch by ounces (or grams). Even when I started by converting traditional recipes, I translated the cups into ounces before I began. Not once did I put flours into a cup. Instead, I flung them into the bowl and started baking. Once I figured out the ratio of flours to fats to liquids that worked for gluten-free, I stopped looking at other recipes. I just made these. To write this recipe, I had to convert the ounces back to cup measurements for those of you who don’t have a scale yet. Normally, I’d go into the kitchen to carefully weigh flours then scoop them into a measuring cup. I have written measurements here that I will never use myself.
Today, however, the scale’s battery died. (Poor thing. I used it all up.) So I had to convert ounces into cup measurements by searching for the weights of each flour and doing more algebra than I have since the 7th grade to figure out how many portions of cups each flour requires. And tell truth, it still isn’t going to be exact. “About 1/2 of cup” could be seven different weights for seven different bakers.
Hopefully, these crisp crackers with the soft bite, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, warm out of the oven will convince you once and for all. Buy a kitchen scale and start baking!
2.5 ounces sorghum flour (that’s about 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons)
2.5 ounces brown rice flour, ground super fine, if possible (1/3 cup, plus 1 T)
2.5 ounces tapioca flour (1 tablespoon shy of 1/3 cup
2.5 ounces sweet rice flour (1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
3.5 ounces unsalted butter, just out of the refrigerator (7 tablespoons)
3 ounces mild-flavored honey (1/4 cup)
3 to 6 tablespoons cold water
cinnamon sugar (optional)
Combining the dry ingredients. Measure out the sorghum, brown rice, tapioca, and sweet rice flours. Put into a food processor and whirl them up. Add the cinnamon, baking powder, xanthan and guar gums, and salt. Mix until everything is well combined.
Cutting in the butter. Cut the butter into small pieces (about 1/2 tablespoon size). Add to the flours in the food processor. Pulse until the butter is incorporated into the flours. The mixture should have a coarse, sandy texture, like cornmeal.
Finishing the dough. Stir together the honey and 3 tablespoons of the water. With the food processor running, pour in the honeyed water. Let the food processor run for a few minutes, allowing the dough to form a ball. The final dough should be soft and pliable, even a bit wet. If it still has not come together entirely after a few minutes of processing, add the remaining cold water, a tablespoon at a time.
Refrigerating the dough. Put the dough in a suitable container (or wrap with plastic wrap) and put it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. This will be just enough time to let you clean up the mess, put away the flours. Oh, and to…
Preheating the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Have another piece of parchment paper, same size, ready as well.
Rolling out the graham crackers. Cut the ball of dough in half. Return the other half to the refrigerator. Put the ball of dough onto the parchment-lined sheet tray. Cover it with the other piece of parchment paper.
Carefully, roll out the dough to a rectangle about 1/2 the length of the sheet tray, or until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into 8 pieces. (You’ll have ragged round pieces on the edges. Leave them on. They’ll make great scraps for graham cracker crusts.) If you want the final crackers dusted with cinnamon sugar, do that here. Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.
Decorating and baking. Pull the sheet tray from the refrigerator. Using the tines of a fork, prick holes into the crackers in a regular pattern that looks good to you.
Bake the graham crackers until they are golden-warm brown and starting to be hard, about 15 to 20 minutes. (Turning the tray halfway through baking will help them to not bake too brown.) Allow them to cool on the sheet tray until they are cool to the touch and hardened even more, about 30 minutes.
Repeat with the second half of the dough ball.
Eat. Dunk in milk. Make s’mores. Enjoy.
Makes about 16 graham crackers (or more if you cut them in half, as we did for Little Bean’s small hands)