What’s happening right now?! I’m easing back into the grind in Boulder, after a fantastic couple of weeks in California. It was a whirlwind of zipping around, exploring new roads, foraging new ingredients, cooking up new flavors in unexpected places, meeting new people, zipping around again to enjoy meals with them, and crashing for a few hours of sleep in between. I woke up in Napa yesterday in a bit of a fog (even though the valley was absolutely gorgeous with the sun coming up and the hot air balloons aloft.) The toll that this sort of uber-interactive travel has taken didn’t hit me until I had returned the rental car, checked my bags with bikes and knives and fancy clothes (and new jams, honey, a bottle of olive oil, and some other delicious souvenirs) and passed through security. I hadn’t had much chance to grab breakfast and while I had a few trusty almond butter packets and snacks with me, I wanted something…else. I wanted something that tasted like home. I wanted to be there already.
I ordered a coffee and a pretty good-looking scone from the brightest coffee shop in the terminal and found a clean bench to sit down and enjoy this little breakfast spread. I crumbled off a piece of scone and dunked it in my coffee. Chewing. Chewing. Chewing. Did this taste like anything? Chewing more. NO.
Tears. Whoever had baked his cardboard-like, tasteless scone had done so without any care for the flavor. For the texture. This was the most disappointing meal of my life, after a week of absolutely unforgettable (yet simple) meals. I threw it away and began digging through my bag for a squirrel snack, wishing that I had a little bag of homemade graham crackers tucked away. I didn’t. But as soon as I woke up this morning I made a batch just to close the circle and you can trust that I won’t forget them on my next trip.
These past weeks I spent a lot of time talking about food as fuel, but it’s not just that. The things we choose to eat are emotional as well. We all have different tastes and flavors that make us feel whole; spoiled, healthy, supported, nourished, naughty. And we need different things from those tastes. Sitting on the lawn last night after an 80-mile bike ride at warp speed, the cool crispness of a Belgian ale was what my brain needed (probably more than my body.) When I get home tonight, after a long day of travel I’m sure I’ll crave something clean and light — to wash away the heavy burden of travel. And, this morning, when I was so eager to be home, I wanted something delicious and satisfying that made me feel held as I started a big day of travel. It could have been anything (but a nasty scone, big sugar-bomb cinnamon roll, or greasy Eggs Benedict wasn’t it.)
I’ll return to California in a couple of weeks for ChefsCycle, (you can support my efforts here!) and I’ll pack a little stash of these crackers away in my bag for when I get the feels. We’ll ride 300 miles that week, and my body is going to need good fuel but my little heart and brain will need to be kept happy too.
The recipe below was liberally adapted from Alice Medrich’s amazing book all about cookies and calls for graham flour, which you’ll find in the baking aisle of any well-stocked grocery store. Unlike most recipes, I don’t recommend substituting for a different flour here – nutty graham flour is what gives these crackers their delicious flavor and texture! For those of you overachievers, you could absolutely doll these up by sprinkling them with a cinnamon sugar or adding a bit of cocoa powder in lieu of the flour to make chocolate grahams. But, if you ask me, they’re perfect just the way they are (maybe slathered with almond butter!)
Great Homemade Honey Graham Crackers
- 1 3/4 cup / 8 oz graham flour
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 2 oz oat flour
- 1/4 cup / 1.75 oz granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons whole fat milk
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In a food processor fitted with the plastic blade (very important! Don't use the metal blade!) combine the flours, 1/4 cup of sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Pulse to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the cold butter cubes over the flour mixture, then pulse the mixture until it looks like coarse cornmeal. In a small cup or bowl, stir together the milk, honey and vanilla until it's dissolved. Drizzle the honey mixture into the bowl of the food processor and process just until the mixture gathers together in a single mass.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a flat 8- or 9- inch square, pressing and squeezing gently if needed. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until its very firm but supple enough to roll out - roughly 30 minutes. (Alternatively, you can keep the dough refrigerated for up to 2 days and then let it soften slightly before rolling out.)
- When you're ready to shape and bake the grahams, preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
- Place the graham dough square between two pieces of parchment paper and carefully roll out until it is about 1/8 inch thick and as even as possible from the center to the edges. (To do this, be sure to just roll in perpendicular and horizontal motions, and not to roll aimlessly, which will create a round!) Flip the paper and dough over once or twice to check for deep wrinkles and, if necessary, peel the parchment away, smooth over the dough and continue rolling out. Once the dough is 1/8 inch thick, prick it all over with a fork then slide it - on the parchment - onto a baking sheet.
- With a sharp knife, even up the edges of the dough and score it into squares, rectangles, diamonds...whatever shape you like. (I cut all the way through the dough here, but don't separate the graham shapes. Also, I like to use a plastic ruler to do this but you could eyeball the shapes instead.) Leave the edge scraps in place as they're good for nibbling on or blending into graham cracker crust!
- Bake the grahams for 20-25 minutes, until they're golden brown with deep brown edges. Rotate the pan from front to back halfway through to ensure the grahams bake up evenly. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool, then break them along the score lines. Cool them completely before storing, then keep them in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.