Sunday, January 30, 2011

Whole Wheat Cocoa Squares

Making a home-made version of a favorite store-bought item is always a fun project, so this week I decided to tackle an old comfort-snack: the chocolate graham cracker. Although there are several recipes floating around for home made traditional graham crackers, it was tougher to find one for a chocolate graham cracker, which I still buy periodically to munch on. Although I considered using one of the traditional graham cracker recipes and swapping out a half cup of the flour for cocoa power, I decided to play it safe and use a pre-made recipe from King Arthur Flour.

The recipe seemed to have everything I was looking for, and I was attracted to the use of whole wheat flour rather than graham flour, which many of the recipes use (logically) because I had a bit of whole wheat flour on hand. Also, the ingredients seemed to have everything a graham cracker ought to have: a bit of milk, flour, honey, and cocoa. However, as you may have noticed, I decided not to name this post Chocolate Graham Crackers because I don't feel like this recipe accurately reproduced the Nabisco crackers that I'm used to.
Instead, although the flavor of the crackers are wholesome and cocoa-y, they really were too soft and not sweet enough. This outcome was pretty disappointing, since the process did not go as I had expected: I had three technical issues with this dough. Number one, it expects you to bind together around 3 cups of dry ingredients with only 4 table spoons of wet ingredients and advises you to "add more milk as needed." I ended up adding about a quarter cup more milk than the recipe recommended. Although I probably should have cut the butter into the mix longer than I did, even if the butter had been distributed ideally, I still would have had to add a lot more milk. Second problem: The dough was pretty tough to work with. Even with a heavily floured surface, the dough was sticky and kept tearing under the rolling pin. Finally, the instructions recommend you bake for "fifteen minutes or until you smell chocolate." I smelled chocolate after about four minutes of baking in the oven. Obviously, this was not a good indicator. In addition, the crackers were not crispy and puffed much more than expected, and really looked nothing like the photo posted on the King Arthur site after 15 minutes in the oven. Obviously, those made in the picture used a darker cocoa and barely expended in the oven.

In addition, I don't think my portions of dough rolled out to the same dimensions as King Arthur's, so I had a tough time approximating. I find that a good recipe is like a map, and a bad recipe is like some weird directions scribbled on a post-it. (If you've ever left the house with driving directions that make no sense once you're halfway to New Hampshire, you know what I mean.)

All of that set aside, though, I think it could be re-worked with substituting graham flour for whole wheat and upping the liquid measurements. Also, although they don't do it for me plain, I think they'd make some nice little jam-filled sandwiches, or could be dipped in chocolate and covered in what-have-you to make them a bit more fun. If you like a more cocoa, whole wheat-y flavor, these are not a bad product; but a home made version of the store-bought Chocolate Graham Crackers they are not.
King Arthur's Version of Chocolate Graham Crackers

1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour, Traditional or White Whole Wheat
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) honey
2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup cold milk

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Cut out two sheets of parchment as large as your cookie sheets.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, cocoa, sugar, and baking powder. With a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture until evenly crumbly. In a separate bowl, combine the honey and milk, stirring until the honey dissolves. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and toss lightly with a fork until the dough comes together. Add additional milk, if necessary.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and fold it over gently 10 to 12 times, until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Work with half the dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered.

Transfer one piece of dough to a piece of parchment. Roll it into a rectangle a bit larger than 10 x 14 inches; the dough will be about 1/16-inch thick. Trim the edges and prick the dough evenly with a dough docker or fork. Repeat with the remaining dough and parchment. Place the rolled-out dough pieces, on their parchment, onto baking sheets. (You can use the remaining edges to make some heart shaped crackers, as I did)

Bake the crackers for 15 minutes, or when they look crispy on the edges. Remove them from the oven, and immediately cut them into rectangles with a pizza wheel or knife. Transfer them to a rack to cool. Store the cooled crackers tightly wrapped. Yield: thirty-two 3 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch crackers.

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