Graham crackers are crackers which are made from graham flour, a type of coarse wheat flour which is high in fiber. The crackers are sweetened slightly, so that they taste more like cookies than crackers, and they are an extremely popular snack food. Some consumers are familiar with graham crackers as one of the crucial ingredients in S'mores, and they are also used to make cheesecake crusts and an assortment of other desserts. Many markets sell graham crackers, and it is also possible to make them at home.
The origins of the graham cracker are quite interesting. The crackers were developed in the 1800s by the Reverend Sylvester Graham, a man who believed that a healthy diet was the key to a healthy and moral life. The health food craze was alive and well in the 1800s, with numerous proponents of whole grain foods including John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the corn flake. Like many others during his time, Graham felt that sexual excess was unhealthy and potentially dangerous, and he promoted a sort of abstinence through health foods.
One of the cornerstones of Graham's diet was graham flour, whole grain wheat flour which is left unsifted, so that it has a rich, nutty flavor and a coarse feel. Graham crackers were one way to get consumers interested in the flour, and they certainly proved successful. Unfortunately, many modern graham crackers are made with bleached flour, with Graham strongly disliked, and they may use refined sugar and stabilizers to make their texture more uniform and consistent.
A true graham cracker must be made with graham flour and sweetened with molasses. Small amounts of honey and cinnamon may be added as well, to make the flavor more interesting. Refined sugar, white flour, and chocolate are certainly out of place, although some producers include these ingredients. Reading the ingredient list on commercially produced graham crackers is an excellent idea, as they can actually be quite unhealthy.
To make graham crackers, whisk two and one half cups graham flour together with one teaspoon salt, one half teaspoon baking soda, and a pinch of cinnamon, if desired. In a separate bowl, cream four tablespoons of butter with six tablespoons brown sugar, and then add one egg. Add one quarter cup of molasses or honey, stir to combine, and then mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients to form a stiff dough. Roll the dough out to the desired thickness, and cut it into rectangles. Pierce each rectangle with a fork so that the graham crackers will be crispy when they are finished, and bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) until golden brown, around nine minutes. Lining the baking sheets with parchment paper will make it easier to remove the finished crackers.