Minichefs: how to make Graham crackers

We are delighted to introduce a new Spatula writer, and Minichef series contributor, Kristy Carlson. Kristy and her family will soon be moving to Burundi to pioneer the Long Miles Coffee Project (more on them soon). We hope you enjoy this fantastic post on how to make Graham crackers with little people.

I don’t know what it’s like to cook with your kids but cooking with my two boys is like directing a herd of elephants across a highway in busy traffic. It’s impossible to control, someone’s bound to get hurt, and something will break. Because cooking with them is like a full contact sport, and often involves a kitchen that looks like it was struck by a hurricane, there are certain rules we must abide by:

#1 Quit taking yourself so darn seriously.
#2 There are no other rules.

It’s all a matter of perspective really. In order to stick to these rules, there are recipes I just won’t embark on with tiny helpers. We are not going for gourmet fare here, we’re just trying to stay alive and have some fun. So, today let’s keep it simple, keep it real… and hope no one gets hurt.

In honour of our American heritage, we decided on a classic… Graham crackers. These delights are fabulously deceiving, they call themselves crackers, but really they’re biscuits or cookies. In the good ol’ U-S-of-A they are used as the top and bottom of the most beautiful creation in the world, the S’mores (if you don’t know about S’mores… just Google them and try not to drool). They can also be used as the top and bottom of ice cream sandwiches. All you have to do is place a scoop of ice cream between two Graham crackers, press down a bit and smooth the outside edge with a knife. Wrap in cling wrap and freeze. If you’re not into ice cream, they can simply be dunked in milk and devoured. Or, and this might be my favourite, you can whip up some cream cheese frosting, bake a batch of these, and slather them with frosting as needed.

Simple, easy and even egg-less… you probably have everything in your pantry to make these right now.

There is dough you need to roll out (don’t quit on me now, it’s not that hard!) and this dough needs to be refrigerated 2 hours before rolling but, trust me, your kids are going to love using the rolling pin.

Ingredients for Graham crackers: (Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery and Smitten Kitchen)
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup treacle sugar/dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavoured honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. In the bowl of the food processor fitted with a steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse to incorporate. Add the butter in cubes and pulse until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add this to the flour mixture and pulse or mix on low until the dough just comes together. It will be a lovely brown and oh so ewey gooey.
3. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a rectangle about 2.5 cm/1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
4. For the topping: in a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.
5. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface (see note below) and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 2cm or 1/8 inches thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary and try to work quickly. Use cookie cutters and cut into desired shapes. To make the more traditional cracker shape, trim the edges of the rectangle to 10 cm/4 in wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 11.4 cm or 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.

Baker’s note: My Durban secret for roll-out cookies makes the cookies easier to transfer to the baking sheet from the work surface in humid conditions. Rub your work surface with a damp cloth; place a piece of baking paper or waxed paper over it while still damp. Make sure the paper has adhered nicely to your work surface. Flour the paper and roll out your dough on top of the floured paper. When you are done rolling and cutting, simply lift up the paper and ‘help’ the cookies to separate with ease. Alternatively, flip the entire piece of paper, cookie side down, onto the baking sheet and peel away. Remove scraps. Results may differ depending on your work surface.

6. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the cinnamon topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat step 5 with the second batch of dough.
7. Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F degrees.
8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Yield: 10 large crackers, or 20 cut-out crackers. Download printable version of this recipe.

Thanks for the super post, Kristy.