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Monday, October 20, 2008

graham cracker cut-outs

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I inherited a lot of cookie cutters from my mom. I have shapes for Halloween, shapes for Valentine’s Day and Christmas and Easter and St. Patrick’s Day, animal shapes, geometric shapes, and even shapes for Election Day (elephants and donkeys). I have A LOT of cookie cutters. I also inherited my mom’s desire to collect more cookie cutters, which is a little strange, because I rarely make cut-out sugar cookies.

But when my daughter Meredith turned two years old and began participating in some cooking projects, I got really nostalgic about making those roll-out sugar cookies with my mom. Of course, I also remembered how much cookie dough I ate during those sessions. I decided to try and develop a healthier recipe that I wouldn’t mind making often, and that I didn’t care if Meredith ate by the handful. This whole-wheat graham cracker recipe was born! It uses oil instead of butter, 100% whole wheat flour, and doesn’t call for eggs.

Your kids can help you measure the ingredients, mix the dough, and practice rolling out a small piece of dough while you roll out the rest. Then they can help cut out the crackers and decorate them with all kinds of toppings—nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips… anything you like!

These crackers are fun to make, are pretty darn healthy, and have a nice, slightly sweet and whole-wheaty flavor. They definitely aren’t as sweet as cookies, though. Which makes them nice with tea, and great for s’mores. (When we’re making them for s’mores, I cut them into squares with a pizza cutter and then make fork-pricks in them to look like the store-bought kind.)

Meredith loves making these, so now I have an excuse to collect even more cookie cutters! My most recent acquisitions? Letter shapes! We especially love to make initials of our friends, and then march around the neighborhood to deliver them.

I was inspired to write this post by my friend Cate, who writes a fabulous blog about cooking delicious, nutritious food with her kids—and other people’s kids! She asked if I wanted to be a guest blogger on her website, Tribeca Yummy Mummy, and I jumped at the chance! Check us out on her site (more photos there)—and then browse the rest of her fantastic ideas and recipes!

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graham cracker cut-outs

These crackers aren’t very sweet, so if you want them sweeter, you could substitute more maple syrup or honey for part of the milk.  I love the combination of roasted walnut oil (Loriva brand is pretty easy to find) and maple syrup, or roasted peanut oil with honey. The nut oil adds a really nice richness to the crackers, but you can just use canola oil if that’s all you have.

You can use all whole-wheat pastry flour for this recipe, which makes a nice, tender cracker, but makes the rolling out a little bit hard, since there isn’t much gluten in pastry flour. It works fine, though, if you’re patient and don’t expect the same consistency as regular sugar cookie dough. I have had better luck using half whole-wheat pastry flour and half whole wheat bread flour (or just use regular all-purpose whole wheat flour).
After I roll out the dough once, the dough scraps get a little tougher to work with, so I generally just roll them out and cut the remains up with a pizza cutter into square-ish shapes.

We make them often with cookie cutters and decorate them, but if you cut them out in squares and make fork-pricks in them, they are fantastic for s’mores!

crackers

¼ cup milk or soy milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or vinegar
¼ cup roasted nut oil (such as toasted peanut or walnut oil), or canola oil
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
2 ½ cups sifted whole wheat flour [you can use ½ pastry flour and ½ bread flour], plus more as needed
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. sea salt

decoration ideas

black and/or golden raisins (you can soak them in water to plump them up)
dried cherries
dried cranberries
nuts (peanuts, almonds)
seeds (green pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
chocolate chips
crystallized ginger pieces

1. Combine milk and lemon juice, set aside for a few minutes to curdle. In a small bowl, whisk the oil and sweetener together, and whisk in the curdled milk.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir gently until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and balls up in the center. You might have to add extra flour, or if you’re using whole wheat bread flour, you might need to add a little more milk.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets if they are not non-stick. Using a rolling pin on a floured surface, and using more flour as necessary on top of the dough, and on the rolling pin, roll the dough out about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Re-roll the scraps and cut more shapes out (the second time around, I just cut them into square-ish shapes with a pizza cutter). Arrange them on sheets. 
4. If you want to decorate them, spray lightly with water with a sprayer bottle (this helps the nuts to stick) and go crazy with the toppings.
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp.  Transfer crackers to racks and cool them before storing in a tightly closed tin.

 


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