Graham crackers seem like one of those things that have always been factory-made, like pneumatic tires or zippers. Until recently, it never even occurred to me that someone might make them at home. (Can you imagine vulcanizing rubber tires in your kitchen? Probably not.) Even less fathomable, then, was the thought that the nice-but-bland supermarket version could be improved upon. I didn’t have very high hopes until a few minutes into baking Martha Stewart’s recipe, when a warm, nutty, sweetly wholesome aroma came drifting out of the kitchen.
These were going to be tasty. These were going to be worth it. These were going to make some crazy good s’mores.
For our last adventure in the car camping wilderness (a few years in Northern California and I am now outdoorsy, people) I went a little overboard on the s’mores front: homemade marshmallows, good chocolate and our homemade Grahams. The marshmallows are actually not as much trouble as you’d assume, but the fireside consensus ended up in favor of the store-bought puffs. (Thank your favorite industrial food scientist, because whatever weirdo additives are present in the Stay-Puft variety, they make for a well-toasted marshmallow; the homemade ones tended to melt right off the roasting stick.) Do-it-yourself marshmallows are pillowy, vanilla-scented clouds of yum, though, so I’ll leave that up to you.
If you’re also the showing off type, you’ll probably lean towards some 70%-cacao-fancy-business to team up with your crackers and marshmallows. As much as I love it, I think dark chocolate tends to overwhelm the s’more here, so I’d recommend bowing to tradition with a square of milk chocolate instead. Hershey’s, if you’re really going for it.
Let’s see, what else? Well, you may note, if you’re paying especially keen attention, the absence of Graham flour in the recipe below. That’s because you can also make your very own Graham flour at home (Martha must be smiling somewhere), as it’s just a combination of wheat flour and wheat germ, championed by 19th century dietary crusader and nutjob Sylvester Graham. Graham (and his carb-cheerleading contemporary John Kellogg, of corn flakes fame) believed that meat, alcohol, spices and seasonings roiled up sexual desires, and that friskiness of any sort (indulged or otherwise) lead straight to ravaged health and howling-at-the-moon insanity. Ahem.
Thankfully for us, Graham’s more permanent additions to the American landscape were the importance of good dental hygiene and the Graham cracker. (In my version, I like to add a little extra cinnamon. Take that, Sylvester!) And despite his more woo-woo ideas about human sexuality, Graham was admittedly right on the money about the benefits of whole grains. His beloved wheat germ gives these cookies a bit of texture and a wonderfully toasty flavor. (Keep any leftover germ in your fridge or freezer, as it can go rancid pretty quickly.) Brown sugar and honey add a grown-up sweetness without overpowering the rest of the ingredients.
The end results for your Graham crackers will be a bit thicker than the ho-hum store-bought variety. Provided you can you manage not to eat them all before you get to your campsite, you may prefer an open-faced s’more. (The purists among you may disregard this as heresy, but I stand by my statement.)
And if you’re not camping anytime soon, I’m very happy to report that these cookies are positively addictive just plain and on their own. (Martha also recommends a swath of peanut butter, and she is not wrong. Though if she were, I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell her.) I’m not too proud to tell you I ate about six in a row, standing over that barely cooled first batch. I’m fairly certain Sylvester Graham would not have approved.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies and Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
- 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
- 1 C whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 C wheat germ
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 sticks butter, room temperature (8 oz)
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
Sift flours, salt, baking soda & cinnamon together into a large bowl. Add wheat germ and whisk to combine.
Put butter, brown sugar and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the ingredients until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl & the paddle every so often.
On low, add the dry flour mixture. Mix until combined. Once mixed, the dough will be look like wet, clumpy sand. You’ll think Martha has finally lost it, and there’s no way this beachy mess will turn into a neat and tidy stack of crackers. Do soldier on, I know a trick to help get it all together.
Preheat oven to 350.
Place half of your cracker dough into a gallon-sized zip-top plastic bag. Shake contents to the bottom. With a rolling pin, smush the dough flat, rolling out as evenly as you can until you fill the entire gallon bag. (When you get close to the top, seal it shut.) Don’t worry too much about overworking the dough; you’ll end up with a crisp cookie either way. Repeat with a new zip-top bag and the remaining dough. Lay flat and chill for an hour or so in the fridge until the dough has firmed up. (You can leave it overnight or freeze it at this stage.)
When ready to bake, open each bag and cut the plastic away from the dough. With a sharp knife, cut into squares; you should end up with 16 from each bagged batch. Pierce each cracker a few times with a fork. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating your pan halfway through, until golden brown and fragrant. Cool on a wire rack. These keep really well, sealed tightly, for about a week. S’more it up.