Moral Fiber

People look at you slightly askance when you tell them you make your own marshmallows, but they gather their children and move hastily away when you tell them you make your own graham crackers. Why? I dunno, since not only do homemade graham crackers have both better flavor and texture, they help you get back in touch (if only a bit) with the man and his philosophy. Graham, who was the foremost “physiological reformer” of his day, would have abhorred the fatty, heavily sugared, white flour-based semi-shortbreads that pass as graham crackers today. Graham’s originals were lean, bland and tough, made solely from his signature flour grind, and definitely — definitely — not meant to be enjoyed.

Graham flour, as I mentioned, has all the base components of whole wheat flour in it: germ, bran and endosperm. The big difference is the way it’s ground. Graham believed that in order to be properly absorbed by the body, the endosperm of the wheat berry must be finely ground. So, like conventional millers he separated it out and ground it to a talcum powder-like consistency. But because he also believed that wheat germ and bran were most healthful when consumed in relatively large pieces, he ground them separately and only slightly. The result, when he mixed the whole mess back together, was a coarse meal that journalists of the day compared favorably to sawdust.

It made heavy bread (because the big bran pieces kept gluten strands from forming) and still heavier crackers. Just the tonic, so Graham felt, for quashing our unhealthful desires for white flour, meat, sugar, spices and sex. This week’s recipe certainly wasn’t designed with such repressive goals in mind. Rather it contains plenty of sugar and fat, which should both make fantastic s’mores and keep your libido intact. Ms. Gand does however call for an interesting mix of white, whole wheat and rye flours, which at least will put you in the spirit of the thing.

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