When last we met, I was forlornly resigning myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to roll, cut, chill, bake and cool a batch of homemade graham crackers inside the space of an hour. The next day, I returned to the kitchen after work, already wilting from summer heat, and got to it.
The dough was easy to work with. I kept the counter sprinkled with flour and had very few issues with sticking. I ended up getting 17 sandwich cookie-sized crackers (about 2.5″ x 5.5″, but I wasn’t really measuring) out of the batch, and I think I could have stood to roll the dough out thinner. I popped the prepped cookies into the fridge (where the baking sheets they were on only just barely fit into my fridge…whew) and we went out with the pup for a walk and a frisbee session. When we returned, the cookies were ready to go in the oven. They baked up just right according to the recipe, so if I do roll them out thinner next time, I would reduce the bake time by a few minutes. I gave them just enough time to cool, and loaded them up with ice cream.
I think my ice cream sandwich technique needs work. First off, next time I will definitely have the cookies ready before I make the ice cream, because the texture is just right for spreading fresh out of the machine. That was initially my plan, but a heat-related emergency (read: our house was warm and we were uncomfortable) required an ice cream infusion, stat. As a result, the ice cream was really too solid for spreading, and melted all around the edges of the container because of the warm kitchen. Also, my first sandwich was made from a whole cracker, and Jeremy complained that the ice cream to cookie ratio was off. He was taking a bite, and all the ice cream squished out the back end. After that, I broke my cookies in half along their handy-dandy break line, tried hard to mound some (still rather solid) ice cream in between, and immediately got the finished cookie back into the freezer. I did six this way, and I think the size is more user friendly—the ice cream doesn’t quite melt before you finish eating one.
While they were freezing, I sampled the cookies with a scoop or two of ice cream on the side, for garnish, as it were. They’re very good: crisp and brown, just like a graham cracker should be, with a subtle sweetness and touch of cinnamon. If we finish off the ice cream before we get through them all, I’ll have to blitz them up for crumbs and make a key lime pie or something. Ooh, or I could make some homemade marshmallows and do S’mores with good dark chocolate. That would be fun! Oh, the possibilities!
2 1/2 C plus 2 T unbleached pastry flour or unbleached AP flour (you could also substitute up to a third of this with another flour, e.g. buckwheat, barley, quinoa, etc.)
1 C dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
7 T (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 C mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 T whole milk
2 T pure vanilla extract
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm enough to roll, about 2 hours or overnight.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.
Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Yield: 10 large crackers.
Source: Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery, via 101 Cookbooks.
Update 1/27/09: An update using some alternate flours is available here.