Friday, February 24, 2012

Cocoa Grahams with Chile Sugar

Just about everyone knows the basic goodness of graham crackers. Made with honey and graham flour, we grew up eating them as snacks, more fancifully as S’mores and now we know them as the main ingredient in crusts for cream pies and tarts.

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.

Bench notes:

- 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.


vanillasugarblog said...

i do love a thick graham cracker/ so not to sound boring but i will make these.
i love grahams, they are ok, but have always wanted a soft, thick one. if that makes any sense.
anytime you're up for a guest post on my blog--i'm here. would love to have you!

pastry studio said...

Howdy, vanillasugarblog! Always great to see you. Thanks so much for the offer of a guest post. I happen to be really swamped on another big project right now so it's very difficult for me to commit to anything else at the moment. Maybe in the future?


Redd H from Salted Spoon said...

These look fantastic! I love that they are thicker then other graham crackers. I definitely need to add these to my things to make list!

thelittleloaf said...

I love the addition of chipotle to these - chocolate and chilli is such an awesome combination. We don't get a lot of graham crackers here in the UK so great to have a recipe on hand to make myself :-)

The Food Hunter said...

I like the thickness of these

Bryan said...

love love love graham crackers. was excited to see this one with cocoa and spice!

i used natural cocoa in this batch to play it safe chemistry-wise, but its flavor isn't as nice as the Dutched i have on-hand. i'd def try another batch with that instead.

love the warmth of the smokey spice on the finish.

pastry studio said...

Bryan, please let me know how your batch comes out with Dutched cocoa! I'm inclined to agree with you that it would taste better.

Bryan said...

with Dutched Valrhona, the color and flavor both happened to be deep and cocoa-y.
mostly i was concerned with leavening, but if there was any difference from the natural cocoa batch, it was minimal. maybe it doesn't matter for a cookie this thin.

i patted mine into a quarter-sheet pan which was about the perfect thickness all around.
and seasoning with smoked salt worked well with the chili.
such a good cookie!

pastry studio said...

Thanks so much for letting me know how this turned out for you using Valrhona cocoa powder. I love that stuff. And smoked sea salt would be fabulous. I love these cookies so will definitely try your version.