The after-school program at my elementary school never served chips or cookies as snacks, deeming them junk food. It did, however, offer the same snack everyday: graham crackers. At snack time, we lined up to grab a small carton of milk and pull one graham cracker out of its sleeve. The most exciting days were when we got the cinnamon-sugar dusted ones.
Ever since, graham crackers have held a special place in my heart. I buy them for s’mores or to be pulverized into crumbs for a graham cracker crust, but I’d never made them from scratch. It turns out they’re a fun project with delicious results! Freshly baked graham crackers have a good snap and crunch, and taste more deeply of honey flavors than the boxed versions. Here’s how to make these childhood favorites.
The History of the Graham Cracker
The graham cracker is named after Sylvester Graham, a minister who created the cracker in the 1800s as a health food. The original graham crackers were made with flour, bran, wheat germ, and no sweetener — a far cry from the sweet, cookie-like graham cracker that you’ll find in grocery stores today.
Homemade Graham Cracker Ingredients
Grab these ingredients to make your homemade grahams:
- Two kinds of flour: Graham crackers are traditionally made with graham flour, which is a coarsely ground wheat flour that contributes to the crackers’ nutty taste and texture. Because graham flour can be difficult to find, this recipe uses a combination of regular whole-wheat flour and all-purpose flour with comparable results.
- Sweeteners: While there’s granulated sugar in the dough, a few tablespoons of honey adds the signature honey graham flavor we all know and love.
- Milk: Just a touch of milk moistens the dough, holds it together, and adds a little bit of creamy flavor.
- The rest: You’ll also need these ingredients common to most cookie doughs: butter, baking powder and soda, vanilla, and salt. You can also add some ground cinnamon to the dough for a subtle cinnamon hit, but note that these will not be like the cinnamon-sugar dusted graham crackers (that’s a separate recipe!).
How to Make Graham Crackers
A food processor makes quick work of the dough, but you can also make it by hand if you’d like (see Recipe Note). The processor blade blitzes the cold butter into tiny little pieces that get coated with the dry ingredients, and helps mix in the honey and milk until a soft dough forms.
Roll the dough out between sheets of parchment paper, then chill it in the fridge until it’s firm enough to cut into rectangles. (If you’re the kind of person who wants graham crackers with perfectly straight edges, trim the sides before cutting the dough into rectangles.) I find a ruler handy for making sure the cuts are in the proper place, and it also doubles as a guide for making straight cuts. Use a knife or pizza cutter to make the cuts, but don’t separate the crackers just yet.
Using the blunt end of a wooden skewer, poke holes in each cracker for that signature graham cracker look and to keep the dough from puffing up (use the tines of a fork if you don’t have a skewer). Bake until the crackers are fragrant, a shade darker, and not wet on top. They’ll crisp up as they cool, so be patient and let them sit on the baking sheet until they’re completely cooled before breaking them into rectangles with your hands. If the crackers aren’t crisp enough (you’ll know because they won’t snap apart easily), stick them back in the oven for a few more minutes.
What to Do with Homemade Graham Crackers
I love snacking on these graham crackers with a tall glass of cold milk, but I can also confirm that they make out-of-this-world s’mores, are delicious smeared with peanut butter and jelly, and make lovely gifts if you dip part of the cracker in melted chocolate. Stashed away in an airtight container, they last for up to a week if you’d like have tasty after-school snacks on hand or want to pack something for an on-the-go treat.
Here are some other ways I’m planning to use these super-tasty treats.
This favorite childhood snack is sweetened with honey and baked until crisp, ready for s'mores or eating with a tall glass of milk.
YieldMakes 24 (2 1/4x3-inch) square graham crackers
Prep time 45 minutes
Cook time 16 minutes to 17 minutes
- 1 cup
- 1/2 cup
- 1/3 cup
- 3/4 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon
ground cinnamon (optional)
- 8 tablespoons
(1 stick) cold unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon
whole or 2% milk
- 1 teaspoon
Mix the dry ingredients. Place 1 cup whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon if using in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine.
Process in the butter. Cut 1 stick cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Scatter over the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 seconds.
Process in the wet ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Process until the dough starts to clump together, about 20 seconds.
Divide the dough. Remove the dough from the food processor and divide into two equal portions (7 1/2 to 8 ounces each). Form each portion into a rough square that’s about 1-inch thick.
Roll the dough out. Place one square of dough in between 2 parchment paper sheets. Roll the dough into a 9 1/2-inch square about 1/8-inch thick. As you roll, periodically lift the top sheet of parchment off to make sure it’s not sticking. Uncover and slide the dough, still on the parchment, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat rolling out the second portion of dough. Stack onto the first sheet of dough.
Chill the dough and heat the oven. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes, or freeze for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350ºF.
Cut the dough. Remove one sheet of dough from the baking sheet and uncover (keep the remaining sheet in the refrigerator). Using a ruler to guide you and a pizza cutter or sharp knife, trim the edges to create a 9-inch square and discard the scraps. Cut the dough into 12 rectangles: make 4 parallel cuts 2 1/4-inch inches apart in one direction, then make 3 parallel cuts perpendicular to the first cuts that are 3-inches apart. Make sure to cut all the way through the dough, but do not separate the rectangles. Repeat with the second sheet of dough. You should now have 24 rectangles.
Dock the dough. Slide each sheet of dough, still on the parchment, onto a baking sheet. Poke each rectangle with the blunt end of a skewer 12 times, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart. (Alternatively, prick each rectangle with a fork 3 or 4 times.)
Bake the graham crackers. Bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until evenly golden-brown all over, 8 to 9 minutes more. The finished graham crackers should be a shade darker than the original dough, not shiny, and dry when touched in the middle.
Cool the graham crackers. Let the crackers cool completely on the baking sheet (they will crisp up more as they cool), about 30 minutes. Using the lines as guides, break the crackers into rectangles with your hands. If the graham crackers are not crisp, bake again in a 325ºF oven, checking every 3 minutes, until a shade darker in color.
Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Making the dough by hand: To make the dough by hand, whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk the honey, milk, and vanilla together in a small bowl. Grate the cold butter on the large holes of a box grater into the dry ingredients, then toss with your hands and pinch the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Pour in the honey mixture and stir with a spatula until evenly moistened and a soft dough forms. Proceed with dividing and rolling out the dough.