Homemade Graham Crackers - a tale of two recipes

2.27.2013

Left: Martha Stewart´s recipe                      Right: Nancy Silverton´s recipe

Necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case the force behind trying different recipes of the same cracker not because I want to have a good homemade version, but because they are non-existent here, so it´s either homemade graham crackers or store-bought vanilla wafers.
Having made hundreds of cheesecakes over the years using a wafer crumb crust, I didn´t really need the extra step. No one cared.

But now that I live and breathe food, something most food bloggers can relate to, I need to be able to use graham crackers, which are totally different from vanilla or honey cookies. I want the different flavor to work with in recipes. And besides, unless you´re in Buenos Aires, you´ll never be able to duplicate something that calls for store-bought argentinian vanilla cookies, right?

Martha Stewart´s Graham Crackers

So it came down to two recipes, because, really, there was no need to look any further. There was such a slim chance that they wouldn´t be wonderful, I decided to skip that margin.

I had already made both recipes two years ago, trying to use the dough as a pie dough for a cheesecake pie I make. That was before I started this blog, and I didn´t pay much attention to the subtleties between them. Oh, but that´s all changed now.

Let´s start with my favorite baker, Nancy Silverton. Her recipe, interestingly, has no graham flour in it, which for me is perfect, since it´s also something not easy to find here. The time I made this dough to use as a pie dough, it was good, but it didn´t have the right texture, crumbly for starters, a crumb and melted butter crust has. So I figured it was not worth it, a better crust was achieved with ground vanilla wafers. And much easier.

Nancy Silverton´s Graham Crackers

The second contestant here, is Marthat Stewart, who else. Her recipe has graham flour, and very different proportions and even some ingredients. I used superfine whole wheat flour, which I will never know until I someday can make these with graham flour, how different the final cracker is. I suspect it doesn´t affect it much.
Update feb.28: My blogging friend, Jenni from Pastry Chef Online, tells me graham flour is whole wheat flour, as explained by wikipedia.

Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and ready to bake (Nancy S.) 

Both doughs are very crumbly at first, and when starting to roll them rather sticky and too malleable to work with. Which means you have to work with them while they´re as cold as possible and as fast as you can. Both go in the fridge after mixing for a few hours or more. I left them like a day before I baked them.

Just out of the oven (Nancy S.)

I made one (MS) in a whole flat giant cookie, with the separations marked, directly on the same parchment paper where I rolled it, and the other one (NS) cutting each cookie before . The latter has individual edges, and it´s a little more laborious having to transfer each individual cookie to a parchment-lined baking tray.

And both are insanely good. Good, good, good flavor and texture. I wish I had a box of graham crackers beside me so I could tell you without that minimum percentage of doubt. But both recipes are probably better than the box.


Before going into the oven (Martha S.)

The first recipe, from Nancy S., reminded me of a molasses cookie without the spicy kick. They have sort of a flat honeycomb appearance, and have a crunchy topping from a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar right before baking. They have to be kept in a tin to preserve it´s crunchiness, otherwise they become more like a soft cookie with only an idea of crunch.

The second recipe, from Martha S., is more like a honey cookie and the butter comes through more. It´s more of a layer effect. You can keep them in a plastic bag and they just don´t loose their crunch. It´s been more than two weeks now, and they´re still crisp.

These crackers, both versions, are one of the best smells your kitchen, and whole house really, can hope to be enveloped in. That cinnamon, holiday, cookie smell that makes you stand still and just breathe deeply.


I´m guessing you might want a winner. It´s very hard, both are amazing, probably the best recipes out there. Go with whatever baker is your favorite. I will probably alternate both from now on, and end up making slight changes, like adding the cinnamon in the dough in Nancy S. recipe, because it´s easier than the whole sprinkling before baking.

If I have to give a final veredict it is the texture of Martha S. and the flavor of Nancy S. And if you have a hard time finding graham flour, NS´s is the winner. 

But if you really, really need to know my favorite right now, one cookie in each hand, a bite of this one, then a bite of the other, a little deliberation... I have to say I like Martha´s better because of the texture and how they seem to never loose their crunchiness.

Though I baked both recipes from their books, you can find MS recipe on her site, and NS recipe on The Wednesday Chef. No need to copy them again.


27 comments:

  1. I've never even considered making my own graham crackers. Thanks for putting it in my brain!

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  2. not that I've gone out of my way to look for it, but I don't think I've ever seen graham flour either. so it's not like it's common here - most people are probably buying the packaged graham crackers - even confirmed foodies & bloggers like me!

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  3. Graham flour can be tricky to find over here as well - it's hit or miss. But I do love my graham cracker - graham crackers in milk is one of my favorite "sick foods".

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  4. Graham crackers are abundant where I live but I also know without a doubt (and without ever having made them myself!) that homemade are better just because homemade is always better! I can't get over how perfect your cookies look, Paula. I love that you made two and did a direct comparison. It's so helpful reading posts like this when I'm searching for a recipe to try because I hate wasting time, energy and money making something that doesn't turn out.

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  5. I am so impressed that you tried both! I think the each look lovely and would be welcome in my kitchen any day. I will keep your post in mind when I get around to making these at home. Pinning it for later.

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  6. When in doubt make both right? Your homemade crackers either way are a hit :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  7. we don't have 'graham cookies' here in australia either. i think most cooks here making a cheesecake crust would use a store-bought plain biscuit that is hard and flavourless.
    i must admit i thought 'graham' cookies were a brand name and until you pointed it out, i'd never heard of graham flour. so i just googled it!
    it makes me wonder if my wholemeal choc wheaties are similar? (mine has no spice or honey/sweetness, except for the choc topping, which you could leave off). here's mine for your consideration:http://www.diginhobart.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/chocolate-wheatie-biscuits.html
    paula, as always, thanks for a great post that has taught me some things.

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  8. Paula,
    LOVE this!! Of course we want a final verdict! I love that you did this. . yes, here in the US, as you can imagine, you can find graham crackers at seriously every grocery and most convenience stores. . but I LOVE that you made homemade crackers (even though you had to b/c they are non-existent there). I am definitely making these. . we go thru so many boxes of graham crackers here, I would love to make them myself! Maybe I'll start with Nancy's!

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  9. Oh I was reading everything hoping to get that answer which is better, now I am still not sure.. :) If I would have to choose which one to make would be too hard, I would have to make both too :D

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    1. I just added a line to the post: I choose martha stewart´s in the end, even with whole wheat flour instead of graham flour.

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  10. I always wanted to make graham cookies, but of course, there is no graham flour here in Peru. But I was very surprised looking that no one of the recipes use it, both replaces the graham flour with a mix of flours...that's great...I should try.

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  11. I really am surprised that you don't have graham crackers there. I thought they'd be a world wide staple. I made my own awhile ago and was very unimpressed. Perhaps I just tried the wrong recipe. I should have known to try Martha's. I love all of her recipes.

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  12. Very cool that these are homemade! I totally gotta try this out.

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  13. How fun! Homemade is always better.

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  14. A really cool post, Paula. I couldn't wait to hear your verdict and was leaning towards MS as the winner. I think I have to try both and decide for myself!:)

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  15. I made graham crackers for a Daring Baker's challenge a few years ago..but I can't recall if I liked them or not. Will have to go back and read lol Both versions look fantastic..and much better than mine!

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  16. How cool! Making your own graham crackers!! And you didn't just make one...oh no, you went for two! You ARE Martha Stewart, aren't you?? Hiding behind a blog and all... ;-D

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  17. Love this post, Paula. I love graham crackers and I would love to try both recipes. Thank you for sharing the experimental results.

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  18. Ohh, awesome, Paula. We don't get Graham crackers here in the UK nor the graham flour. Our version is a digestive biscuit which is pretty much very similar (made with whole wheat flour, if I remember correctly.

    I just found a recipe that calls for chocolate graham crackers. We can't get chocolate digestive biscuits here (only chocolate covered) so adapting one of these recipes sounds like the the go-to for me.

    Thanks for sharing.

    -Lisa.
    Sweet 2 Eat Baking

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  19. Making homemade Graham's have been on my "to do" list forever! I am in envy of your baking project with a cookie in each hand! Reading your post was a joy!

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  20. Oh, I may need to make these with homemade marshmallows and have a s'mores party!!! Love that you compared two recipes...a true foodie!!!!

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  21. Paula, what an interesting post - I love the fact that you actually took the time to bake the two recipes and explain all the differences with so much loving details. I have never baked Graham Crackers but have been planning to do so for the longest time - if and when I find the time, I will most certainly remember this wonderful post of yours!

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  22. What a fun idea for a post - this or that! I bookmarked this for the next time I need graham crackers. + I agree with Andrea, you're amazing, baking both batches for a taste test. Thank you!

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  23. My first homemade graham crackers were from Thomas Keller's recipe for homemade s'mores. We had a friend visiting us in Maine in the winter. We mentioned fireside dinners and asked what he would like for dessert. S'more, he said. Homemade. So, I made the graham crackers and the marshmallows and used Belgian chocolate. Now it is time to get out TK's recipe and compare to Martha's and Nancy's. His were pretty darned good... ~ David

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    1. I found the s´mores recipe from the french laundry on epicurious. I´m so trying his version! Thanks for the tip!

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  24. Great post! This makes me want to bake some graham crackers, stat. There are so many recipes out there, so I appreciate that you compared two highly acclaimed recipes. The photos are great, and so helpful, too. My thus far favorite grahams were from Emily Lucchetti's Passion for desserts - classic flavor and texture. But I'm hoping to try the ones in Good to the Grain that call for teff flour sometime, too.

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  25. So pleased to find this recipe, via the pear almond tart you posted a couple of days ago. We don't have graham crackers but I often see recipes making use of them. Now I can make my own!

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