Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Graham" Crackers: Gluten-free

After a neighbor friend of mine was complaining of the horribleness of the few GF "graham" crackers on the market (I believe sandpaper was used to describe a bite of the fakers), I decided once and for all to figure out what the essence of a graham cracker really was and how to achieve it on my own.

While, yes, a true graham cracker is centered around graham flour, which has a higher content of wheat germ than traditional wheat flours, the graham crackers that we think of today are more like a sweet wafer used to build smores or keep kids from pitching fits at inopportune times. And according to my food scientist cousin, Joseph, the inventor of the original graham cracker would roll over in his grave if he knew how much sugar we've added to these treats.

I wanted to determine what was building the flavor, as well as the texture of what we think of today as the graham cracker. After doing some research, I discovered that at it's core, it has a subtle molasses and cinnamon flavor, with the sweetness of sugar, but not overwhelmingly so. It seems like a graham cracker is a not too distant cousin of the gingerbread cookie. It's just a bit less soft and less spicy. A gingerbread cookie has more molasses, ginger, and nutmeg, which change things just enough to create a very different experience than the graham cracker.

After combing the interwebs, I settled on an Alton Brown recipe, which had to be thoroughly made over for both the gluten problem and the way he does his measurements, which were in weight (ounces) for precision. The recipe is pretty easy to follow and the only real trouble I had was getting the dough to roll thin enough. Rolling GF dough is much trickier than a traditional gluten-filled dough.

These "graham" crackers certainly smell like a traditional graham cracker while baking, and they tasted so much better than I expected. The texture is wonderful for a GF baked good, they definitely crack like a cracker without falling apart. They are not overly dense at all. They are actually crispy, which is an impressive GF feat. I give this make-over recipe two thumbs up, but I would be hesitant to do this much work just to turn it into graham cracker pie crust, although it would taste very good as one. The whole process was easy and took about an hour, including bake time.

1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 1/3 cup potato starch
2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
6 TBSP of unsalted butter, chilled and sliced into pats
1/4 cup plus 1 TBSP of molasses
1/8 cup milk or cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a medium to large mixing bowl. Put your pats of butter in the bowl with the dry ingredients, and blend together with a pastry cutter or large food processor until it's mixed well enough to resemble very, very course corn meal (some pieces of dough will be as large as a green pea). Add the wet ingredients and continue to mix with the pastry cutter until the dough starts to pull together in a ball-like manor (you'll never get the perfect dough ball with GF baking). Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray or coat with butter, then adhere a piece of parchment paper to the moist sheet. Put your chilled dough blob into the papered pan and cover in plastic wrap. Push it as flat as you can with your hands and then use a rolling pin to even it out and spread the dough to fit the cookie sheet as flatly and evenly as you can. Take a pizza cutter and cut squares or rectangles into the dough and poke the centers with a fork. Bake on the middle shelf for about 25 minutes, when the edges start to brown. Pull it out and transfer the crackers on the parchment to a cooling rack and let them cool thoroughly. When cooled, they should break apart easily at the seams you cut prior to baking. Store them in a sealed container for up to two weeks.


chunkymonkey said...

Somehow I have not caught on 'til now that Food-Guru-Joseph is your cousin. Funny.

Heather said...

You are AMAZING! Excited to try these out. I especially love that you made the lines on the graham crackers too. YOU rock!

Ali-kat said...

Distant cousins through a polygamous line, Beebe. And thanks, Heather. They were wicked easy to make and even more delicious. I made them into S'mores last night. It's been ten years since I had one.