Occasionally we worry about how we are perceived. More specifically, we worry about how our son is perceived at school, and indirectly how that makes us look. I should really phrase this in the first person singular: I sometimes worry about this. Which is absurd. Nonetheless, it is a fear of mine.
The fear of perception also gives way to a secondary fear that our children will want what other kids have. Of course, that is really an issue of my own, in that I often want what others have.
Let me go back to the original point about school and food. For most of the year our son’s school lunches consist of a hodgepodge collection of containers filled with all sorts of homemade things and fruits and vegetables. (The main exception to this pattern is the weeks following Halloween when bags of chips and small candy bars take up some of the space.)
We are not purists when it comes to the locavore lifestyle, but we do strive to eat locally all year long. We’d like our children to grow up eating this way so that they understand the rhythm of the food seasons and the benefits and joys of eating within these limitations.
Fortunately we are blessed to live in a region with a strong and vibrant local food culture, which makes it much easier for us than if we lived somewhere else. Finding locally-grown vegetables and fruits—at least apples—is possible all year long.
However, as delicious as the local carrots and apples are, our children are not wonder kids who only eat these things. They would happily eat more processed foods. Luckily we have learned that we can make healthy-ish processed foods at home.
I say “healthy-ish” because clearly cookies are not healthy, but at least homemade cookies can be made with 100% whole grains, and a reduction in sugar, often replacing the sugar with honey and maple syrup. Crackers can be made with sourdough starters, whole grains, and overnight soaks to render them more digestible.
This graham cracker recipe has been a lifesaver for us. Our youngest loves them, and they seem to provide him some relief from teething. Without a doubt making crackers from scratch is much more work than buying them, but they are also much tastier than store-bought, and the ingredients are local and natural. So long as I don’t charge for my baking time they’re much cheaper too! Pretty awesome.
The recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads, the main changes are the addition of multiple grains, butter to make them softer, and a slight reduction in the honey. These can be made with just whole wheat flour, but you can really use any combination of wheat and other flours (barley, spelt, emmer, einkhorn, Kamut®, rye, etc.) adding up to 1 ¾ cups.
Useful tools for making crackers:
- Silicon Baking Mat (Amazon.ca)
- Dough Docker (Amazon.ca) for making uniform holes—but you could also use a fork!
- Pastry wheel cutter (Amazon.ca) perfect for making cute zig-zag edges.
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup whole barley flour
- ½ cup whole rye flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ¼ cup yogurt
- 1-2 tbsp. sourdough starter (optional)
- 2-4 tbsp. butter (the more butter, the more crumbly)
- 5 tbsp. honey
- 1 ½ tbsp. molasses
- Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top
- Extra flour for rolling out dough
- Mix all of the ingredients together and knead briefly by hand until the dough reaches a fairly smooth consistency. If it is too sticky add some extra flour. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover, and leave overnight (or in the fridge for 2-3 days).
- Preheat the oven to 350◦F. Remove the dough from the container and divide it into two pieces. Form each into a ball and roll the dough out as thin as possible on a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper. Add small amounts of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. (I find that lifting the dough and flipping it, and then adding a bit more flour helps it to stretch out faster). Roll the dough until it is slightly thinner than you’d like your crackers to be—for us that is about ⅛” thick.
- Use a pizza cutter (or fancy rolling pastry cutter) cut the shape of crackers you want right on the mat. Cut gently without fully cutting through—you will break the crackers apart after baking, this helps them hold their shape better. Use a fork or dough docker to make tons of holes in the crackers.
- Use a spray bottle (or wet hands) to lightly moisten the crackers, then sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top. Transfer the mat and crackers to a baking sheet and place in the oven.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes then rotate the baking sheet 180◦ checking the crackers at the edge to see if they are done. Crackers are done when they are beginning to turn a darker color and are almost stiff. Remove any that seem done and place on a cooling rack. Continue cooking the crackers for 4-5 minute intervals until all are done. When cool store the crackers in an airtight container. Crackers will keep for several weeks.
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