Sweeter Than Honey

We all have favorite name-brand products, and crackers are no exception. I grew up on Nabisco’s Wheat Thins. Years later I developed a taste for the more sophisticated shredded-wheat Triscuit. When I first met my wife, she introduced me to Kellogg’s buttery Club Crackers. Each of these products is a little different (and today we prefer healthier versions of all three). But I think most would agree, there’s nothing quite like the taste of a graham cracker.

As I put graham crackers under the spotlight today I wonder what comes to your mind first.  For me, it’s two things.  First, I’m taken back to childhood mornings at Sunday school, where the preferred snack was honey graham crackers and pineapple juice.  I can’t think of another time or place where I ever had that combination of foods.  Maybe the sugar overload was a strategy to keep us awake during the Bible stories?  Second, I endlessly debate whether a graham is a cracker or a cookie.  If you’re at all familiar with the ingredients, grahams lean towards “cookie”.  They’re called a cracker, they look like a cracker, but nine out of ten stores stock them in the cookie aisle.

Graham cracker or “graham cookie”?

It’s appropriate my first memory of graham crackers is at church.  They’re named after Sylvester Graham, a nineteenth-century preacher whose constant message was temperance.  In Graham’s time, temperance was a movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but also encouraged what may have been the first vegetarian diet.  Wheat was its cornerstone, and wheat (flour) is the primary ingredient in graham crackers.  To be clear, Sylvester didn’t invent the graham cracker (we’re not sure who did) but his preaching inspired its name.

“Blackstrap” molasses

The sweet ingredient in graham crackers used to be molasses, one of my favorite items in the pantry.  Inevitably, molasses gave way to processed sugar.  But as I discovered recently, honey is a key ingredient in today’s best-tasting grahams.

For you, maybe graham crackers taste best in s’mores (which I wrote about in Toasty of the Town), or the crust of a cheesecake, or even Moon Pies for you baby boomers.  But for me, grahams taste best all by themselves.  They play like a “cheat” to the more sugary options out there, and I can pretend I’m just snacking on a “cracker”.

I keep a stash of grahams in my office drawer to satisfy my occasional sweet tooth.  I only need a couple of the 2″x 5″s and I’m back on track.  The other day however, I pulled open the drawer to nothing but crumbs.  Horrors!  Grahams have been my go-to since the beginning of Lent because I’ve given up chocolate and “sweets”.  So I quickly added them to my store list and vowed to shop later in the day.

But as so often has been the case during the pandemic, I immediately paused and thought, “Wait a minute. Why buy graham crackers?  Maybe I can make them from scratch?

Here then, I present what is the best graham cracker recipe I’ve ever tried.  (Okay, it’s the only recipe I’ve ever tried but it doesn’t matter; I don’t need another one.)  Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking takes grahams to a way higher rung on the cookie ladder (including a helpful video if you’re baking-challenged like me).  I’ve eaten a million Honey-Maids yet it took me sixty years to realize grahams can be SO… MUCH… BETTER.  Why?  Because these contain a lot more of the good stuff and a lot less of the nasty chemical flavorings and preservatives.

You should expect these homemade grahams to taste better when you see the ingredients.  The ratio of flour to brown sugar is 2:1 (emphasis on the “1”).  Now add another 1/3 cup of honey.  That’s a lot of “sweet” for a cracker, er, cookie that looks like a thin cardboard rectangle.  But I’m talking delicious with a capital “D”.  Think chewy instead of crunchy, with a rich “graham” flavor lingering much longer than store brands.  They’re almost too good to be called a graham.

My grahams

Okay, let’s close the box on graham crackers with a quick review:

  1. They were invented as an alternative to unfavorable indulgences.
  2. They’re a cookie by definition but a cracker by name.
  3. They make you want to try Moon Pies (if you haven’t already).
  4. They satisfy a craving for sweets without being “a sweet” (disregard earlier comment about brown sugar and honey).
  5. They are unquestionably better made from scratch than store-bought.
Yum!

If I haven’t sold you on how much better the humble graham cracker can be, consider this.  They’re simple to make and you already have all of the ingredients you need.  So, what are you waiting for?  Go bake some crackers, Graham!

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

——————–

Lego Grand Piano – Update #10

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

We worked entirely underneath the piano today, with the instrument flipped onto its back. Bag #10 – of 21 bags of pieces – contained an intimidating pile of tiny parts. I didn’t realize what I was even building until somewhat magically, pedals, legs, and castors appeared before my eyes.  That’s right folks, this baby-baby grand now rolls.

I also took a deep breath and tackled the “loose piece” I’ve mentioned with the last two builds.  Sparing you the heart-stopping details, let’s just admit I installed a tiny piece ninety degrees wrong.  Correcting meant removing all the piano strings and working in a deep, dark corner, with the assistance of an X-Acto knife, eyeglass screwdriver, and pliers.  Like I’ve said before, don’t get any part of this performance wrong.  It’ll cost you later. Dearly.

Elevated!

Running Build Time: 8.1 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Satie’s Gymnopidies 1, 2, and 3 (a deliberate choice to soothe me while I repositioned the loose piece). Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: The tiny pedal to the right is called the “damper”. It’s used to sustain the notes you play after you take your hands off the keys.  Remarkably, the Lego Grand Piano has the same mechanical action you’d find with this pedal in a real piano.  Sit down at a keyboard some time, press the right pedal with your foot, and (with the piano lid raised) you’ll see just how many moving parts it takes to sustain notes.  You’ll find those same moving parts in the Lego Grand Piano.

21 thoughts on “Sweeter Than Honey

  1. Hold the horses, you had honey graham crackers and pineapple juice in Sunday school? Wow, that’s pretty highbrow. We had a couple of sad little animal crackers and some weak red Kool-aid. But on a happier note, yes to Moon Pies, please. I loved those as a girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought about including a comment on animal crackers, Ally, because they taste a lot like grahams and are more fun to look at. But then those pink/white Iced Circus Animals came to mind (oh my…) and I decided I was getting a little too sugary. Wow, compared to your Sunday school fare I was in high heaven. And isn’t it great you can still find a Moon Pie if you look hard enough?

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  2. Hi Dave,
    I had never heard of or tasted graham crackers, smores and cheesecake until I arrived in the US. I still don’t eat much of those. I am sure the homemade version is much better. I will take the homemade version of anything.
    I am so excited about the piano!! It is really impressive and it does look like a ton of detailed and precise work!
    Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re one of the lucky ones, Ana, because most Americans have had a lifetime of subpar graham crackers without knowing a better option was right in front of them. If you’re game for the recipe I included, they really are delicious. The piano has been a satisfying adventure, especially once I got the hang of putting together the many tiny “un-Lego” pieces. This week’s chapter was truly a revelation. I was so focused on the body I forgot about the legs and pedals. I call it a wonder of design and engineering.

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    1. We have a Trader Joe’s nearby so I’ll have to try their brand. I’m not giving up on store-bought just yet, especially if I need a graham fix and don’t have the time to bake them.

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  3. Great job on baking the graham crackers. They look yummy! Gemma has a lot of good recipes, I like her. I see you baking with the grandkids!! The piano is looking FANTASTIC! Ok, a little hiccup, but you got it done! BRAVO !

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  4. Graham crackers ARE a ubiquitous snack for children everywhere–home, school, AND church. Mom smeared ours with butter–SUPER delicious! But back then we quickly burned off those extra calories. / Looks like you’re on the homestretch of getting that piano completed. Hard to believe it even comes with castors! Kudos to you, Dave, for persevering to get that one little piece where it belongs!

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  5. “Ubiquitous” – great word, Nancy! I’ll use that one in a future post. The graham cracker recipe I found contains plenty of calories (and butter) without adding toppers so I best not try your mom’s “smear”. As you say, I wouldn’t burn off the calories nearly as fast as I used to, sigh…

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  6. Graham crackers are indeed too sweet to be a cracker. I used to love to eat them with butter or vanilla frosting on top. They were a dessert. The homemade ones sound delicious since I prefer softer to crunchy.

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  7. I love graham crackers but haven’t had them in several years. I like ’em plain, but also the cinnamon variety as well. We always had graham crackers around when I was kid and I often dunked them in milk. I can hear Mom saying “we have to fold down the wrapper or they’ll get soft and nobody wants a soft graham cracker!” She would have a snack with me and didn’t dunk them in milk, so a crispy graham cracker was important. I used to get Teddy Grahams for a while, but they are too handy to pop into your mouth and before you know it the package is empty. I would never have thought to bake graham crackers and the texture you describe sounds delicious. My mom used to make her version of the Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars – she had them down to a “T” – they were my go-to snack for years. The piano is looking grand – filling up a corner of your desk Dave.

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    1. The latest version of Honey-Maid cinnamon grahams is a disappointment, Linda. They’ve cut back on the cinnamon sugar to where they taste almost the same as the regular version. I agree though; the cinnamon version was the best when they were more liberal with the sugar. We dabbled briefly in Teddy Grahams when our kids were younger but as you say the convenient “handful” size has you over-consuming. At least with full-size grahams one or two are enough to satisfy me.

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      1. I won’t go looking for any then Dave – thanks for the tip. Yes, Teddy Grahams are addictive and best left on the grocer’s shelf because it’s easier to be mature with graham cracker sheets.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I must admit that I am a graham cracker agnostic. I can eat one or not eat one and it’s all the same to me. The only time I ever really liked them was when I was a kid at someone else’s house and their mom served them with an icing/glaze of milk and confectioners sugar. But I must admit that the homemade ones sound intriguing.

    We bought them regularly when the kids were young, but I can’t remember the last time they were in the house. Goldfish crackers are another matter.

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    1. I agree with you J.P. – I can take or leave the store-brand versions of graham crackers. They simply serve as a lower-calorie alternative to the other choices in the cookie aisle when I’m watching what I eat (and giving foods up for Lent). The recipe I included is a whole different animal. As much “gingerbread” as “graham”.

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  9. Your talk of crackers reminds me how from probably 5th – 11th grade for lunch I had peanut butter and crackers, that was the only thing I’d eat haha. I’ve come a long way! I find graham crackers are very addicting, I could easily eat a whole sleeve. Your homemade ones look delicious, I’m impressed!

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  10. So true about the “sleeves”, Lyssy. They’re just small enough (nine crackers, I think) that you can absentmindedly consume the whole stack in a single sitting. The homemade version will be a breeze with your baking skills. Give them a try!

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