I made a visit to Charlottenburg a few weeks ago to visit Luisa, a food writer who’s been running the well-known blog “The Wednesday Chef” for almost seven years now. Luisa was born in Berlin to an Italian mother and American father, and lived here until she finished high school, when she left for to work in publishing in New York. As a side project, she started the blog, spending each Wednesday attempting to make the recipes she’d clipped from The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Since then, she moved to Berlin and is now working on a book for Viking Press called My Berlin Kitchen, which will come out in the US in September, with a German translation to follow.
After the link, our attempt at making graham crackers (which are actually more like a cookie), the lamentably unavailable in Germany yet essential ingredient for cheesecake crusts, s’mores, and Nanaimo bars.
Nancy Silverton’s Graham Crackers
Makes 10 4 x 4.5-inch graham crackers or 48 2-inch squares
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (I used half all-purpose flour, half whole-wheat)
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed (n.b. brown sugar is not the same as ‘brauner zucker,’ but is rather a mixture of molasses and white sugar, and is kind of moist as a result. It’s nearly impossible to find in Germany, so you can either buy it online, or make it yourself. Mixing one tablespoon of Zuckerrübensirup with one cup of white sugar will work well enough, although it’s not completely the same.)
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 grams) kosher or coarse sea salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon
1. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. [Alternately, if you don't have a food processor or electric mixer, you can cut the ingredients together with a pastry blender. Just make sure they're very well incorporated.]
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the topping, if using, by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and setting aside.
4. Heat the oven 350 degrees F (170 degrees C). Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers.
5. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Finally, gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.
6. For the traditional graham cracker shape, mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
7. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
And there you have it:
We chatted a bit too long, so they’re actually a bit darker than they should be. But they tasted great anyway.