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Archive for July 5, 2017

RECIPE: Homemade Graham Crackers

Graham Crackers
[1] Bake these graham crackers with an easy recipe from Go Bold With Butter.

Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers

[2] If you don’t like to dip, you can buy these pretty grahams from Chocolat in Savannah.

Graham Flour
[3] You can also use graham flour for breads and pie crusts (photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill).

Graham Cracker Crust

[4] If you don’t want to smash graham crackers for a pie crust, use graham flour; here’s a recipe. Here’s the recipe for the lovely pie crust in the photo, from Boston Girl Bakes.


July 5th is National Graham Cracker Day.

The history of graham crackers is ironic. They started out as a savory cracker to curb lust. They turned into a food we lust after, whether plain, dipped in chocolate, or made into S’mores and pie crusts.

The history of the graham cracker is below.

The recipe for the sweet graham cracker was edited by Marion Cunningham, who updated the classic Fannie Farmer cookbooks starting in the 1980s.

These crackers are snappy and so much more flavorful than the perfectly-shaped factory graham crackers. The thinner you roll the dough, the crisper they will be.

Ingredients For About 2 Dozen Crackers

  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a large rimmed baking sheet.

    2. BEAT the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy; beat in the egg, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours and baking soda. Lower the mixer speed and add half the flour mixture. Pour in the milk and stir for a few seconds to incorporate before adding the rest of the flour on slow speed, mixing until the dough just comes together.

    3. GENEROUSLY FLOUR a large piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap on a work surface. Scrape the dough onto the paper and sprinkle the top with a little more flour. Cover the dough with a second piece of parchment or plastic and roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Check if you need to sprinkle the dough with a bit more flour while rolling (you should be able to peel back the paper without any sticking).

    4. REMOVE the top sheet of parchment and transfer the dough by gently peeling it off the bottom piece of parchment, wrapping it around a rolling pin and unrolling it onto the baking sheet. Trim off the edges of the dough with a sharp knife to make a neat rectangle, and without cutting all the way through, lightly score the dough into approximately 2½-inch squares.

    5. PRICK each square with the tines of a fork to make a pattern of holes. Sprinkle the top of the dough with sugar. Bake 15 minutes, or until the dough is slightly firm to the touch and the edges are beginning to turn golden. Cool the pan on a rack until completely cool, then break or cut the crackers on the scored lines.
    Graham crackers were actually invented to control lust. The creation of the flour was inspired by The Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), who focused his ministry on health.
    One of 17 children, this eccentric Presbyterian minister from Connecticut (we would replace that adjective with “repressed”), Graham believed that physical lust was the cause of maladies, from major illnesses like consumption, spinal disease, epilepsy and insanity, to everyday indispositions such as headaches and indigestion.

    His “cure” was to suppress carnal urges, for which he prescribed a strict vegetarian diet and the avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and refined white flour. Toward this latter end, a miller created the eponymous graham flour, from which came graham bread and the graham cracker.

    Graham flour is a special type of whole wheat flour in which finely milled white flour is mixed with coarsely milled bran and wheat germ, reuniting the three parts of the wheat kernel (the parts of a kernel).

    The result was a coarse, brown flour with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor that baked and kept well (Grape Nuts cereal is made from graham flour).

    The original graham crackers were not like contemporary ones. They were made without sugar or spice (ingredients prohibited by Graham’s diet). But over time, someone added sugar and cinnamon and created a tasty cookie that appeared in Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook.

    Unfortunately, today’s large commercial graham cracker brands are a bland derivative, with little graham flavor. A good comparison is Wonder Bread and the best artisan loaf you can find.

    Seek artisan brands from bakers and confectioners, or make your own.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: A Blueberry-Blackberry Pie With Meringue Dot Topping

    Fun and beauty combine in this blueberry-blackberry pie, from Kindred Restaurant in Davidson, North Carolina.

    Just looking at the cuisine at Kindred makes us want to head to the charming lakeside college town for a week’s vacation of dining and enjoying the view.

    For now, we’ll have to content ourself with copying the pie, which is pretty easy to follow:

  • Graham cracker crust
  • Custard or lemon meringue base
  • Topping of blueberries and blackberries (the textural differences add to the charm, and you can substitute strawberries and raspberries)
  • Soft meringue and a piping bag
    You don’t need piping skills: The whole idea is different sizes of meringues.

    We’ll try a light garnish, too: a bit of lemon zest or a chiffonade of basil.

    There are three basic types of meringue: French, Italian and Swiss. A sub-tip of the day is to try them all, and decide which you prefer.

    Here are meringue details.

    Some sources say that that meringue (muh-RANG) was invented in the Swiss village of Meiringen in the 18th century, and subsequently improved by an Italian chef named Gasparini.

    Not all experts agree: The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, states that the French word is of unknown* origin. Meringue wasn’t invented in France.

    Even Larousse Gastronomique, The New American Edition of the World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia, acknowledges the Swiss possibility along with:

  • Poland: Created by an unknown chef in the court of King Stanislas I Leszcy?ski of Poland, who later became Duke of Lorraine. While this theory says that “meringue” derives from the Polish marzynka, we were unable to find that word in a Polish dictionary.
  • England: The earliest written recipe for a baked “beaten-egg-white-and-sugar confection” is a handwritten recipe from 1604 called white bisket bread, from Lady Elinor Poole Fettiplace (1570-c.1647) of Oxfordshire, which later appeared in her book, “Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book — Elizabethan Country House Cooking.”
  • In a later generation, Lady Rachel Fane (c. 1612–1680) of Kent has a recipe called “pets.” Slowly-baked meringues are still referred to as pets in the Loire region of France (the reference appears to be their light fluffiness, perhaps like a bunny or kitten, or for pétillant [sparkling] wine).
  • The first evidence of the confection called meringue first appeared in print in Chef François Massialot’s seminal 1691 cookbook, available in translation as . The English first saw the word in 1706, in an English translation of Massialot’s book.

    Blueberry Meringue Pie
    [1] Blueberry and blackberry pie with meringue garnish, at Kindred restaurant in North Carolina.

    Passionfruit Meringue Pie
    [2] One of the benefits of dots of meringue (photo #1) is that you don’t need the skill to pipe evenly (photo by Hannah Kaminsky, Bittersweet Blog).

    Piping Meringue

    [3] Meringues can be baked into hard cookies or pavlovas, or cooked or torched briefly as a soft topping (here’s the recipe from Raw Spice Bar).

    Until the early 19th century, meringues cooked in the oven were shaped between two large spoons. Meringue piped through a pastry bag was introduced by the great French chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833—he preferred to be called Antonin), the founder of the concept of haute cuisine and the four mother sauces. He invented mayonnaise and many other recipes, including charlotte Russe, coeur à la crème, croquembouche, éclairs, mille-feuille and other iconic French recipes.

    No one can find a historical derivation of the word “meringue*,” but the latest suggestion is that it comes from Middle Dutch meringue, meaning light evening meal—possibly from the Latin merenda, “light evening meal.”

    Our personal favorite is the Middle Low German “meringe,” from mern, “to dip bread in wine.” Who wouldn’t like to dip a meringue in a glass of wine?
    *Contenders from include 1700 on include, from the Walloon dialect, maringue, shepherd’s loaf; marinde, food for the town of Meiringen (Bern canton, Switzerland). While they have a few letters in common with meringue, evidence for both is completely lacking. A source that makes more sense is the Latin merenda, the feminine gerund of merere, to merit. Who doesn’t merit a delicious confection? But as our mother often said: “Who cares; let’s eat!”


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