Oh those horrible teenage years with a mouth full of braces. Eating Oreos was devastatingly embarrassing. The time I got hit in the mouth with a softball trying to tag out a stealing runner at 3rd base was a pretty horrific event. And for me, it always seemed like the two days following the orthodontic visits where my braces were tightened were worse than dealing with teenage-PMS. Imagine when they occurred together?!
Yet, I had a solace aside from the inordinate amount of Advil I consumed during those years: mush. Broken up graham crackers soaked in a bowl of ice cold milk. To the unfamiliar “palate” it probably sounds horrible. But when your mouth hurts so much to even close your jaw, you’ll try almost anything. I hated Carnation. Smoothies were almost unheard of in my neck of the woods (bagel- and egg sandwich-centric Long Island) and yogurt wasn’t considered a full breakfast for an active teenager in my house. This mush is actually what my mom ate when she had braces and I fell in love with it.
But I won’t go on and on about the mush. It’s my general love for graham crackers that made me want to try a homemade version for so long. I don’t typically buy them any more unless I need to make a crust for a cheesecake so it’s been a true delight having a stack of fresh graham crackers at home…and that include a list of ingredients that I can pronounce. This version uses all dark brown sugar (that’s why they are so dark in the photos – I didn’t burn them) which really helps to develop a deep caramel-ish flavor in the grahams. After cooling, they crisp up perfectly and can be eaten as they are (I love a schmear of peanut butter on them), ground down into crumbs for crusts, broken up to mix into strawberry cheesecake ice cream, or used for homemade s’mores (more on that soon). I haven’t tried them soaked in milk yet, but maybe that’s in my future this weekend…you know, for old time’s sake.
Brown Sugar Graham Crackers
source: adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by the owners of the Bi-Rite Creamery, Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough
Feel free to cut the graham cracker dough into any shape you want – this would be a crazy-fun project with kids using a variety of different cookie cutters. If you want to make large rectangular, authentic graham crackers, cut the dough out in your desired size and right before baking, gently score across the center of the dough horizontally with a knife or stainless dough scraper. The graham crackers will break easily and cleanly in half at the scored mark once cooled.
- 7 oz all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 6 oz graham flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 cup (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- To make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and honey on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds. At this point, the dough will look crumbly but when squeezed between your fingers, it will form together. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a 7×7-inch square, wrap it tightly, and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. This can be done up to 5 days in advance. Before proceeding, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before attempting to roll.
- To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thick and using a pizza cutter or cookie cutter, cut out the dough into 3×3-inch squares (or your desired shape), re-rolling the scraps and cutting additional cookies. Transfer the cut dough to the baking sheets, spacing each about 3/4-inch apart; keep the dough chilled before baking to prevent them from spreading.
- With a lightly floured fork, prick the tops of each piece of dough a few times to prevent them from puffing up, then sprinkle the tops with the sugar-cinnamon mixture. (Leftover mixture can be stored in an airtight container for future use.)
- Bake for 15-18 minutes (adjusting the time by 1-2 minutes depending on the size of the cookies you choose to make), rotating the sheets after 10 minutes, until the graham crackers are dark golden brown and are just firm to the touch. Cool on the sheets on wire racks for 2 minutes then transfer them to the racks to cool completely; the graham crackers will crisp as they cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.