Sunday, May 2, 2010

How The Cracker Crumbles

A couple of nights ago, I needed printer paper, urgently. It was past 9 and all the papelerias (stationary/ paper stores) were closed, so I was left to test my luck with the late-night kioscos and internet cafes. It was pretty much a crap shoot, but not for the reasons you might expect. Businesses function strangely in Argentina, as they don't seem to follow either what I think of as the American/European model of rigidness and accountability (they will only sell you things that are on the list to be sold, but they will do their best to make sure they have the things they are supposed to carry in stock) or what I think of as the typical third world model, which is generally more relaxed-- it's anybody's guess what might be available or if the shop will even be open, but they will sell you absolutely anything around. I said something to this effect to Felipe while we were walking down the avenue, and we entered an internet cafe. "¿Será que tenés hojas en blanco que me vendas?" (Do you possibly have printer paper that you could sell me?) "Y...no, acabo de meter la última resma en la impresora acá abajo, y el resto está arriba en el deposito...entonces..." and shrugs, looking at me blankly as if this were the most reasonable response in the world. (No...I just stuck the last ream in the printer down here, and the rest is upstairs in storage...so...) Now, you might suppose that the cafe was busy (it wasn't) or that storage was in some remote location as opposed to, you know, up the stairs. A European here once said to me, "it's as if they don't want to make money here..."

In the end, to my total shock, a nice guy in a different internet cafe gave me the sheets of paper I needed without charging me. This in a country that sometimes charges you for plastic spoons in the supermarket if you buy a yogurt.

So we adjust our expectations all the time, trying to navigate the craziness but mostly just trying to get through the day, finding ourselves doing things we never thought we would be doing.

I made graham crackers the other day. I don't think it ever would have occurred to me make graham crackers at home if I didn't live in a country without the possibility of ever having s'mores. And you know what? They were amazing. Like everything you love about graham crackers and everything you love about graham cracker crusts together, but fresher and lighter. They make the store-bought ones seem stale and pathetic in comparison. Amazing like I'm planning on making them again next week as cookiesh things to have around the house (we all know they're not actually crackers) and like I'm trying to figure out how to make cheesecake ice cream so I can make cheesecake ice cream sandwiches. Yum. (I did go a little overboard and thought maybe I could use the dough as a base for cheesecake, using the logic that we use the butter and sugar in graham cracker crusts to improve a stale cookie. While that may be true, and I wouldn´t say it was a failure, I wouldn´t recommend it either. I like the extra jolt of butter and sugar, which is to say that graham cracker crust with smashed homemade graham crackers and butter and sugar would probably be ridiculously good.)

The recipe that I used as a basis has you do all kinds of fancy things like decorate the dough with the traditional indentations and make a cinnamon-sugar topping. I was planning on making the topping but wanted to try the first round without just to see, and they were so good without I not only didn´t find the cinnamon-sugar necessary, I also thought it might detract from the flavor of the actual graham crackers.



Graham Crackers

Adapted from Nancy Silverton

2 ½ c. plus 2 Tbsp. (375 gr.) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 c. (176 gr.) dark brown sugar, lightly packed (or 1 c. granulated sugar mixed with 1 Tbsp. molasses)

1 tsp. (6 gr.) baking soda

¾ tsp. salt (4 gr.)

7 Tbsp. (3 ½ oz. or 100 gr.) unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes and frozen

1/3 c. (114 gr.) mild-flavored honey

5 Tbsp. (77 gr.) whole milk

2 Tbsp. (27 gr.) pure vanilla extract

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture (I use a knife and fork, alternately cutting the butter and then cutting it smaller into the flour with the tines of the fork, then cutting any butter that remains of the knife) until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

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.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 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. Cut the dough into 3 in. x 3 in. squares. Gather any scraps together into a ball, wrap in plastic, and return to the fridge to chill.

Place the crackers on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 min., until browned and slightly firm to the touch (make sure they don´t burn), rotating the sheet halfway through to ensure even baking. Remove the crackers to a cooling rack or plate. Repeat process with second batch of dough.


Estas son las galletas que nosotros utililzamos en la base de los cheesecakes y en varias otras preparaciones bien gringas como los smores (un sandwich dulce con masmelo y chocolate que se hace al lado de las fogatas). Sola, es una galletica dulce pero suave, con un gusto muy distinto por la miel que lleva.

Galletas Graham

Adaptada de Nancy Silverton

2 ½ tazas más 2 cucharadas (375 gr.) de harina de trigo (tipo 000)

1 taza (176 gr.) de azúcar rubio (o 1 una taza acúcar blanco mezclado con 1 cucharada melao)

una cucharita (6 gr.) de soda de bicarbonato

¾ tsp. de sal (4 gr.)

100 gr. de mantequilla, picada en cubitos de 1 cm. y congelada por 20 min.

1/3 taza (114 gr.) de miel

5 cucharadas (77 gr.) de leche entera

2 cucharadas (27 gr.) de extracto de vainilla natural

Mezcla la harina, el azúcar rubio, la soda de bicarbonato y la sal en un bol mediano. Corta la mantequilla dentro de la mezcla de harina (yo uso un cuchillo y un tenedor, cortando la mantequilla con el cuchillo y después aplastandola en la harina con el tenedor, quita la mantequilla que quede en el tenedor con el cuchillo...si la mantequilla empieza a blandarse, echa el bol al congelador por 15 min.) hasta que la mezcla este como una harina gruesa (sin grumos grandes de mantequilla).

En un bol chiquito mezcla la miel, la leche, y el extracto de vainilla. Echa la mezcla a la harina y revuelvala un par de veces hasta que la masa se junte (la idea es mezclarle suavemente, mezclar la masa demasiado hace que las galletas resulten menos tiernas). La masa estará muy suave y pegajosa. Estira una medida de papel de plastico y echale un poco de harina, después pon la masa allí y forma un rectangulo 2 cm. de grueso. Envuelvala en el plastico y dejala reposar en la heladera hasta que se endurezca, 2 horas o toda la noche.

Cuando la masa este lista, precalienta el horno a 180ºC. Divide la masa por la mitad y devuelve una de las porciones a la heladera (reenvuelta en el plastico). Enharina una superficie y estira la masa (con un rodillo/palo de amasar o una botella de vino) a un rectangulo largo de .25 cm. de grueso. Echa un poco de harina encima de la masa antes de amasarla para que no se pege. Con un cuchillo corta la masa en galletas de 5 cm. x 5 cm. Si algo de masa sobra, devuelvela a la heladera (envuelta en plastico).

Coloca las galletas en una bandeja y hornealas durante 10-15 minutos, volteando la bandeja 180º despues de 7 min. para que horneen uniformamente, hasta que esten bronceadas (pero no quemadas).

Sacalas con una espatula para enfriar, y sigue con la otra mitad de la masa.

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