There's a recipe for Chile-Cocoa Graham Crackers from wondrous pastry chef Alice Medrich featured in Eating Well, a magazine dedicated to promoting healthy eating and cooking. It’s a recipe that takes the familiar graham cracker into a more adult realm while trimming back some of the ingredients for a healthier approach. What also makes it unusual is Alice’s brilliant flair for cocoa and cookies and her idea to add chile powder to the cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. It’s a great spicy note with the cocoa and really changes the whole basic idea of a graham cracker for the better. It’s a very good cookie that’s certainly lower in fat and sugar but I must confess that I couldn’t stop wondering how it would taste if it weren’t quite so healthy. Now that’s something I never do but since it seemed to hover at the back of my mind for so long I finally set about trying to make her fine work just a little more decadent. Odd, I know, but there it is.
Here is my revision, just for fun. They're just slightly sweeter and richer but still quite good. I love her idea for something so rustic yet somehow sophisticated.
- Alice Medrich recommends natural cocoa rather than Dutched, although either type may be used.
- I added a pinch of smoky chipotle powder to give the topping just a tad more depth.
- This cookie is baked in a solid sheet of cookie dough and then sliced after baking, rather than cutting or shaping the dough into individual cookies. They do crisp up after cooling but depending on how evenly you roll out the dough, the crispness may vary. If they’re not as crunchy as you’d like after they've completely cooled (the center ones may be softer), simply place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Watch them closely to avoid burning.
- I used a sharp serrated knife and a sawing motion to slice the cookies.
- Store cookies in an airtight container.
- Do yourself a great favor and stock up on Alice Medrich cookbooks. Her work is meticulous, in a class by itself.
Chile-Cocoa Graham Crackers
based on recipe by Alice Medrich in Eating Well magazine
Makes about 3 dozen 2” cookies
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C flour
1/4 C cocoa powder, preferably natural
1/3 C sugar
2 T dark brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
3 oz (6 T) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 C milk
3 T honey
1 t vanilla
1 T sugar
1/4 t ancho chile powder or regular chili powder
pinch of chipotle chile powder
1/4 t cinnamon
very small pinch of salt
Place the flour, cocoa, sugars, salt, baking powder and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until thoroughly combined. Add the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Whisk milk, honey and vanilla together and drizzle over the flour butter mixture. Process just until the dough forms clumps and holds together when pinched.
Place the cookie dough onto a sheet of parchment and press it together into a flat rectangle. Put a piece of plastic wrap on top and roll the dough out evenly to about a 10” square. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the topping, combine the sugar, chile powders and cinnamon.
Take the cookie dough from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Sprinkle the dough lightly with just a tiny bit of salt. Dust the dough evenly with the spiced sugar.
Even up the edges of the cookie dough with a sharp knife but leave the edge scraps in place (for nibbling and to protect the rest of the grahams from burnt edges). Bake until the cookies just start to brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. The cookies will continue to crisp up as they cool.
Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut into desired shapes and sizes. If there are any cookies that are too soft, return them to a 325 oven for about 10 minutes to crisp them up.