Growing up in America, nearly every kitchen had a box of graham crackers in the kitchen cupboard. Babies teethed on them and school kids ate them as an afternoon snack. Campers loved (and still do!) making S’mores over an open fire or in the fireplace. But, what are graham crackers made of? They are made of graham flour, duh! Okay, now what is graham flour?
Graham Flour History
In a nutshell, graham flour is a type of whole wheat flour. However, they are not interchangeable, as one might think. Whole wheat flour is a slightly finer grind than graham.
Graham flour was formulated by Sylvester Graham, a self-taught preacher who dabbled in the temperance movement in the 1830s. Graham became a vegetarian and promoter of natural foods, believing that meat and condiments enhanced the consumption of alcohol. His intent with less-processed graham flour was a healthier form of flour as opposed to refined while flour.
Graham flour is made by finely grinding the endosperm of winter wheat. Wheat germ and bran layers are then reintroduced to the endosperm creating a coarse flour, light brown in color. This process resulted in a flour which was also naturally sweeter and nuttier in flavor than refined white flour.
For true graham flour, you may wish to visit a health food store. Many large manufacturers these days will omit most of the wheat germ. This is because the germ contains oil that shortens the life of the flour. Keep it refrigerated to avoid rancidity.
Graham Crackers History
We have Sylvester Graham to also thank for the creation of graham crackers. These flat, crispy cookie planks are made with graham flour (of course!) and lightly sweetened with honey. He cooked them up in the 1830s and touted them as a health food. Grape Nuts® cereal and pie crusts, along with graham crackers, are popular uses of graham flour.
Graham Flour Storage
Graham flour will quickly turn rancid. Buy only what you will use in a month’s time. Store in a sealed bag or container in a cool, dry, dark place, preferably in the refrigerator or freezer. At room temperature, graham flour will turn rancid in about a month. Refrigerated graham flour will last about 3 months, while keeping it in the freezer can prolong its life up to 6 months.
Graham crackers are easily frozen. Place unopened or opened packages in zip-top heavy-duty freezer bags and suck out all the air. They should keep up to one year.
Graham Flour and Crackers Cooking Tips
• Never sift graham flour.
• Graham flour may be substituted for most of the white flour in breads, but it may need longer cooking.
• Breads made with graham flour will be coarser and denser.
• Turn whole graham crackers into crumbs by whirling in a food processor or place in a heavy-duty plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin.
Graham Flour and Graham Cracker Substitutes
• 15 graham cracker squares = 1 cup graham cracker crumbs.
• 1 pound graham flour = 3-3/4 cups unstirred or 3-1/3 cups stirred.
• 1 cup graham flour = 1/2 cup unsifted whole wheat flour plus 1/2 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
• 1 cup graham flour = 1 cup minus 3 Tablespoons unsifted all-purpose flour plus 3 Tablespoons wheat germ