Monday, July 25, 2011

Graham Crackers

 Ads - you either love them or hate them. Sensible folk normally flip channels when there are ads on television, but I never claimed I am that. Not that I am crazy about buying all the new products that flood the market everyday, in fact, far from it. I watch ads because I like to watch them. Conveying an idea and selling a product within seconds and doing it effectively is such a challenge, particularly in today's world when there is a product deluge. Good, clever ads leave that impact on your mind. Remember the ads we saw as kids?. Like washing powder Nirma with Sangeeta Bijlani, can you forget that song? Videocon Washing machine where the little girl gets ready for her party in  minutes in spite of the dog messing up her dress, thanks to the washing machine. Complan has helped Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia grow so tall today - not very surprising since the mother used to get the entire bottle of Complan to the dining table. Vicco Vajradanti which gave Grandpa teeth strong enough to eat sugarcane, the Limca ad which which still makes me feel refreshed when I think of it. The Surf ad with Lalitaji taught us samajhdaari over the sastaa wala powder. Wonder if she still wears that saree... Am sure Lalitaji's grand-kids would be using those still sparkling pair of Ravi's white school shorts. Who can forget the bunch of kids in the hostel eating Hajmola under the bed. Not all ads got the entire nation to use Nirma or Vicco Vajradanti, Clearasil did not 'erase' my pimples completely for years, but the point is ads have quite a lot of us SOLD. That's marketing for you.

Ads today transform a dusky girl into a fair one and hence automatically beautiful and successful too. Cheerfully eating a cereal twice a day - ad nauseaum -will help you lose a whole lot of weight (no wonder) right in time for your friend's wedding. Talking about selling food and eatables, those which come with a 'healthy' tag to them at that is something of interest.  Don't our kids pester us to buy that outrageously priced sweet treat with a 'surprise' in it as it contains 'healthy milk'? Artificial sweeteners make your dessert 'healthy', the fat and other calories conveniently forgotten. The 'zero-cholesterol' snack which has no business having fat in it at all, the 'baked, not fried' wafers which have a good lot of shortening in them? The instant soup mix with a tiny bit of dehydrated veggies in them become 'wholesome' and the 'heart friendly' oil is reason good enough to have the dining table creaking under the weight of samosas and kachoris. Forgive me for sounding like a phophesizing nutritionist but am sure you will agree, 'Zero trans-fat' wafers have saturated or unsaturated fat in them. Chocolate flavored, 'vitamin packed' cereal and the multi-grain noodles may be relatively healthy, but not really healthy and wholesome.

Noodles, cookies, breads etc which claim to be whole grain certainly have whole grain in them, but not to a great extent. These life savers need to be on our shelves but we could buy these less often? Truth is we can't do away with these and they have to be prepared with fat, so aren't home-made ones infinitely better, if not infinitely healthy, if we can actually use a good amount of whole grain in them? Less fat and with us being in control of what goes into it? In custom flavors, made with care, the added bonus of satisfaction and knowledge that this is a lot better than the store bought stuff? We certainly can't start manufacturing our own noodles and wafers, but healthier cooking is certainly a good step in this direction. I completely agree that baking for one, doesn't sound all that exciting and as enchanting as it does with APF, but yes, we could limit the use of APF and the frequency with which we use and consume it. The King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book gives me hope that this could be possible. The light, crisp, just-about-sweet and tasty Graham Crackers testimony to this.

 Graham Crackers are named after the inventor of these crackers, Sylvester Graham. These crackers are traditionally made with whole wheat in them. This recipe has a quarter part of All Purpose Flour, the rest whole wheat and barley. I have never used barley flour before and I got the grain milled after reading this book. Here comes the recipe which makes approximately 6 dozen 3'' crackers. Let me warn you, you could eat half a dozen at one go as these are really thin and light. So don't let the above number stop you from making the entire recipe. If you have a big oven, then even easier, get started!

I have halved the recipe below and weighed the ingredients.

Whole wheat flour - 1 Cup / 4 oz /
Whole Barley flour - 1/2 cup / 2 oz /
All purpose flour - 1/2 cup / 2  1/8 oz /
Light or dark brown sugar - 1/4 cup / 1  7/8 oz , packed
Granulated sugar - 1/4 cup / 1 3/4 oz ( I used fine grained)
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Ground cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
Salt - 1/2 teaspoon ( I did not use)
Ground cloves - 1/4 teaspoon( I did not use)
Unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled - 1/2 cup / 4 oz/ 113 grams
Milk - 1/4 cup / 2 oz
Cinnamon sugar - optional

Procedure: Combine the flours, sugars, baking powder, spices and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until very crumbly. I used my fingertips to do this. Add the milk and combine until you have a stiff dough. Add the milk little by little, you may or may not need all of it or may need to add a bit more. The point is to have a stiff dough. Knead the dough lightly to make sure its smooth. Divide the dough into 2 portions and flatten each into a rectangle. This will help you roll the dough into a bigger rectangle later. Wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and chill for an hour. You could also chill overnight.

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F. Lightly grease your baking sheets or line with parchment. Remove one piece of dough from the fridge. Flour your working surface and roll the dough till its about 1/16 inch thick. Thinner dough, crispier crackers. If possible roll directly on parchment or a silpat. I rolled the dough on the counter. Transferring the cut pieces takes time and effort (if rolling dough on the counter, keep your tray close to the rolled dough, slide a thin knife below the cut dough and transfer quickly or they may tear. You can keep them close together, they do not spread) Trim the edges. Once u do this, you should have a rectangle about 9x12 inches. The left over scraps can be rerolled. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 3'' squares, then each into half. Prick the crackers several times with a fork or this very useful thing called as a dough docker. You can roll this on the dough and your crackers will have holes in them in no time!! Isn't that neat?

You could sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar if you wish. But I guess in that case, the crackers will be sweet and you would have to watch even more closely while the crackers are baking. Bake the crackers for about 12-15 minutes or till they are lightly browned on top. I baked for 18 minutes. The baking time depends on how thin you have rolled the dough and how crisp you want the crackers. Remove from the oven, transfer to a rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Note: It would be better to roll the pieces into as big a rectangle as possible at one go and cut  even if you can't bake them all at one go. You could transfer them on parchment and keep them covered to prevent them from drying out. I found the rerolled dough crackers not as light as the earlier ones, but certainly tasty.


Hari Chandana P said...

Woww.. looks so tempting and perfect.. thanks for the lovely recipe :)
Indian Cuisine

Anonymous said...

Keeper recipe Suma. Very nice pictures too. I must to remember to get the King Arthur flour whole grains baking book too...seems interesting.

veena said...

Nice healthy recipe. where can i find barley flour or did you take whole barley and powdered it?

Smita Srivastava said...

Love the recipe n ur writeup too ..... Bookmarking it for trying it out on one of the weekends !!! Need to find barley powder..Any substitutes????

Seema said...

Hey Suma,

Loved the write-up as much as the crackers. Me too vouch for home made stuff than store bought ones. Hey, I also like watchings ads by the way!!!


Lifewithspices said...

wow this is so yumm wheat n barley ..healthy one..

Sushma said...

that stalk looks so awesome..pefect coffee snak

chef and her kitchen said...

They r just perfect..looks very nice n yumm

Sum said...

Lovely recipe and lovelier clicks!

Hamaree Rasoi said...

Very crispy and delightful preparation.

Hamaree Rasoi

KrithisKitchen said...

So wonderfully done..!

Miriam Korula said...

suma...they look so perfect...i mean no would guess they aren't store bgt...really nice post....:)

Nachiketa said...

Lovely post.... hit me with a wave of nostalgia....
yummies look super :)

The Variable, Crazy Over Desserts - Nachiketa
Catch me on facebook @ Crazy Over Desserts

Zareena said...

Yeah Suma I too remember the ads and there songs. Talking about the crackers they look perfect and soo inviting.

Unknown said...

wow, so nicely done :)

Sumanjit Kaur Tripathy-Obsession said...

Lovely recipe.

suma said...

@Veena and Smitha - I got whole barley and got them milled. You could try your luck at your grocers!

Rajani said...

Landed here after following the instant MW brownie chain. You have an awesome blog and I love your writing style.

Divya Shankar said...

Neat and fab presentation !! Superb word falls short/less for this work. So perfect you are Suma and what passion for baking, it is seriously infectious. Love the blog completely. One small break I take from its updates and I have so much to see and learn :) Great one this is !!