REAL FOOD 101: How to Make Graham Crackers

Honey Graham Crackers (whole grain, handmade, better than storebought) | OUR NOURISHING ROOTS

Delicate, crumbly, sweetened with a touch of mild clover honey: these are graham crackers elevated.

 Some might say they are too good to be crunched up into a pie crust, but I think they are simple enough to whip up…so why not?

Graham crackers are simple, yet everyone seems to have a recipe for them that differs.  And some would argue that it’s easier to just buy them.  Well, yes and no.

Yes, it’s easier to buy graham crackers, but what’s in them?  If you look in a typical grocery store, the graham cracker box ingredient list usually includes some variation of corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.

Even the graham crackers at the health food store can prove less than ideal.  Many of them use omega-6-rich oils like sunflower, safflower, or soybean oils.  I’m not a fan.  (I like to occasionally buy graham crackers made with palm oil, or butter, or even coconut oil.  Now those are some healthy fats!)

History: Sylvester Graham and Grahamites:

Sylvester Graham was an American dietary reformer who created graham bread in 1829.  This is where graham flour originated, and what generated the eventual formation of the Graham diet.  Graham’s followers were called Grahamites, and the Graham diet was purported to cure the urge for alcohol and sex.  Graham and his followers:

practiced abstinence from alcohol, frequent bathing, daily brushing of teeth, vegetarianism, and a generally sparse lifestyle. Graham also was an advocate of sexual abstinence, especially from masturbation, which he regarded as an evil that inevitably led to insanity. He felt that all excitement was unhealthful, and spices were among the prohibited ingredients in his diet. As a result his dietary recommendations were inevitably bland, which led to the Grahamites consuming large quantities of graham crackers, Graham’s own invention. White bread was strongly condemned by Graham and his followers, however, as being essentially devoid of nutrition, a claim echoed by nutritionists ever since. Some Grahamites lost faith when their mentor died at the age of fifty-seven. Other than the crackers, the Grahamites’ major contribution to American culture was probably their insistence on frequent bathing. However, Graham’s doctrines found later followers in the persons of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg. Their invention of corn flakes was a logical extension of the Grahamite approach to nutrition.

… [Graham] focused on meat and milk, which he believed to be the cause of sexual urges. In fact, he claimed animal byproducts produced lust; Grahamism thus rejected meat, animal byproducts, and alcohol in order to develop a purer mind and body. (source)

Graham was influential on vegetarianism and veganism, although his Graham diet lost momentum rather quickly after a relatively short amount of time. His Graham diet consisted mostly of:

fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat and high fiber foods, and excluded meat and spices altogether (see vegetarianism). Very fresh milk, cheese, and eggs were permitted in moderation, and butter was to be used “very sparingly“. (source)

I wish someone had told Graham that one of the signs of a healthy and robust immune system and metabolism is a strong sexual drive.  That metabolic function is best when you are well-rested, you eat a variety of foods, your stress level is low, and you have lots of energy to run around outside, and lift weights.  But I guess they didn’t have this book back then.

Graham Flour is Weird.

I’ve hesitated to figure out how to make graham crackers because it sounds difficult to make them without resorting to buying graham flour at the store.  Why do I care about that?  Well, I do and I don’t.

do care because I know what Nourishing Traditions says about grains.  They should be whole grains, they should be freshly ground, and they should be sprouted, or sourdoughed, or soaked to minimize phytic acid and make the grains more wholesome and digestible.

don’t care because I know that in spite of all that information about grains, it’s still just something I need to do my best about, and something that might even be considered minutiae when you look at a widely varied diet consisting of mostly whole foods.  Storebought graham flour probably is fine.

Graham flour is interesting in that it isn’t like typical whole grain flour.  Graham flour is described in one of two ways.  The first:

Rather than simply grinding the whole grain wheat kernel (brangerm, and endosperm), in roller-milled graham flour the components are ground separately. The endosperm is ground finely, initially creating a fresh unbleached yellowish-white flour. The bran and germ are ground coarsely. The two parts are then recombined, creating a coarse-textured flour… (source)

There is another source that differs, and explains graham flour this way:

An alternate story is told by Helen W. Atwater in her work titled Bread and the Principles of Bread Making. She claimed that Graham simply washed the entire grain, then ground it between large millstones. She contrasts that against the process used for “entire-wheat flour“, where the grain was washed, then the three coarse outer layers of bran were removed, after which the grain was ground, supposedly keeping the aleurone layer, but discarding the rough cellulose of the outer bran layers (source)

Regardless, this graham flour originally used for Graham’s “graham bread” is what was eventually used to make honey graham crackers.  It is the only remaining vestige of this brief dietary craze, which seems to be for the best.  But don’t worry: contemporary graham crackers are delicious!  Ask any 2-year-old and they’ll tell you.  They don’t resemble the bland graham crackers of Graham’s time.

Apparently you can make your own graham flour from unbleached white flour, wheat bran, and wheat germ.  But even that seems like too much work for me.  That being said, I like a challenge!  So this recipe is my version of homemade graham crackers using flour I ground at home using a grain grinder.  No need to worry about getting my hands on graham flour for this one.  It turns out, you don’t need it to make the best graham crackers ever.

But aside from that, graham crackers can be made easily at home and used for cheesecake crusts, as a snack sandwiched together with a lovely buttercream, or just on their own.  Yum!Honey Graham Crackers (whole grain, handmade, better than storebought) | OUR NOURISHING ROOTS

Equipment Needed:

I searched far and wide for the perfect graham cracker recipe.  I found a plethora: some that used cinnamon, and some that didn’t.  Some use molasses, some use a combination of white and wheat flour, or added wheat germ, or storebought graham flour.

I really wanted to find a traditional recipe that uses exclusively whole grain flour or graham flour, but none of the ones I found were able to combine a list of whole food ingredients (no white flour, etc.) and achieve a true graham cracker flavor and texture.  I was genuinely surprised it hadn’t been done yet!

But I finally settled on this adapted recipe by smitten kitchen which she got from this book.  After all my searching, it seemed like the best template to use to make my 100% whole grain version of graham crackers without needing to mess with learning how to make my own graham flour (too complicated!) or buy graham flour (not fresh enough, but works in a pinch!)

The result is a gloriously crunchy, tender, perfect-for-dipping-in-milk graham cracker that doesn’t require any strange ingredients or special equipment to make your own graham flour.  My kids love these, and I do too!  I think I see s’mores in our future.

(And yes, I know that the topping includes white sugar, but I just don’t think it’s a problem.  I use whole cane sugar the vast majority of the time I bake, so a sprinkling of unbleached white sugar is not a big deal to me.)

Honey Graham Crackers

4 cups freshly ground or sprouted flour, preferably white winter wheat or spelt (find whole grains here, and grain grinders here; how to sprout flour here)
1 cup whole cane sugar (find whole cane sugar here)
1 teaspoon baking soda (find good quality baking soda here)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt (find unrefined sea salt here)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces (find grass-fed butter here)
1/3 cup raw honey (find raw honey here)
5 tablespoons whole milk (find raw milk here)
2 tablespoons vanilla (find good vanilla extract here)

topping:
3 tablespoons finely ground* whole cane sugar OR unbleached white sugar (find whole cane sugar here, unbleached white sugar here)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (find organic non-irradiated cinnamon here)

* Finely grinding sugar is essentially the same as making your own powdered sugar.  Use dry whole cane sugar and place in a blender, blending until powdered.  Take care to let the powdered sugar settle before you take the lid off, or the sugar dust will get you!  Or, simply use regular white sugar.

  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and sea salt together, pulsing several times to combine.
  2. Add the butter and pulse to combine, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, combine the honey, milk, and vanilla with a fork until mixed.
  4. With the food processor running, pour the contents of the glass measuring cup into the bowl and process until the dough comes together in a ball.
  5. Remove the dough from the food processor and put it in the center of a large piece of plastic wrap.
  6. Using the plastic wrap, form the dough into a large ball and flatten into a rectangle, one inch thick.
  7. Chill for at least two hours in the refrigerator, or overnight.
  8. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and roll out on a floured surface with a rolling pin until about 1/8 inch thick.
  9. Using the pastry wheel, cut the crackers into small squares.  I did squares about 3 inches x 4 inches.
  10. Using a small spatula, place the crackers on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  11. Make the topping: mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
  12. Sprinkle the crackers with the topping mixture.
  13. Chill the baking sheets for 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer.
  14. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  15. Remove the cookie sheets from the refrigerator and place directly into the oven.
  16. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
  17. Cool completely before serving.
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Comments

  1. Hi there,
    Great post. I’ve never thought of making graham crackers before, it’s funny how that works. Of course I’ll give this a try. However I wanted to comment on your endorsement for palm oil. Palm oil is very bad. I’ve been to Indonesia and Malaysia where they grow it, it’s grown in big plantations similar to a tree farm here in the States. However they’re cutting down rain forest to make these plantations, orangutans- among many other species, live in these forests. Additionally, like most rain forest soil, the soil is very poor. They can grow 2 crops of trees on this soil (50 yrs total), fertilizing the heck out of it, and then the soil is done. Nothing can grow on it anymore and the groundwater is polluted from the fertilizer.

    Anyway, it’s hard to win nowadays. Palm oil does have some fantastic attributes, but the price is very steep.

    • Yes, I am very choosy about which palm oil I will endorse. I only recommend sustainable brands, and I consider it something that I try my best on.

  2. Hi Kendahl!

    I’m going to try these, but I’m wondering how many it makes – how many cookie sheets should we use, and are they ‘regular’ size?

    Thanks!
    Kelly

  3. I’ve made graham crackers from scratch quite a few times and wow they are really good. I found an easier way to create all those separate crackers though – roll dough directly onto a parchment paper cut to fit your baking sheet. Score to the size cracker you want, and poke holes with a fork (the kids love to do this part). Then slide the parchment onto the baking sheet to place in the oven. As soon as one sheet of crackers comes out of the oven, slide on another and continue baking. Cool baked crackers on a wire rack.

    If the crackers are not completely crisp, then after the last batch comes out of the oven, put all the cooked crackers back onto the baking sheets and place them in the hot oven. Turn off the heat at that point, and let the crackers sit in the oven until they are cool.

    Crackers that won’t be eaten within a couple of days will keep perfectly for a very long time in a quart size canning jar, with an oxygen absorber packet and the lid on tight. These techniques work well for savory cracker recipes as well.

    Happy cracker making!

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  1. […] REAL FOOD 101: How to Make Graham Crackers | OUR … – Delicate, crumbly, sweetened with a touch of mild clover honey: these are graham crackers elevated. Some might say they are too good to be crunched up into a pie … […]

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