I’ve got two very specific memories of teddy grahams and Nutella that never fail to enter the forefront of my mind whenever they cross my path. First up: the teddy grahams.
When I was younger, I had the most epic birthday parties. I would come up with some theme like ‘luau’ or ‘spa sleepover’ and my mom would concoct the most extraordinary cakes. That luau party featured a chocolate volcano cake. You know those elementary school science experiments where baking soda could create the most exciting reaction you’ve ever witnessed? Well my mom figured out how to do that with raspberry sauce. A real working volcano cake with delicious results. The spa sleepover? A molded face covered in pastel green frosting—to exact a face mask of course—with candy cucumber slices over the eyes and licorice lips.
I think the best cake I ever had was for my pool party. A round ice cream cake featuring the best ice cream flavor (peppermint bon bon, duh) and fudgy chocolate cake was surrounded by rectangular, chocolate-covered wafer cookies to represent the edges of the pool. The top layer of vanilla frosting was dyed a swirly light blue for water, and there was even a diving board on the edge made of candy. Littering the pool’s surface were lifesaver inner tubes and gummy lounging rafts with teddy graham sun bathers and swimmers splashing about. We even gave them their own bathing suits of frosting. Needless to say, I always look at teddy grahams with some whimsy to this day.
As for the Nutella, I attended a Spanish immersion camp (in Northern Minnesota—go figure!) in middle school for several years. Essentially I had no idea what anyone was saying except for the other campers. You could trade in money for pesos to buy snacks. I thought these snacks were so international because I had never really seen them before. But if I had just looked one shelf up in the grocery store…. We’re talking Toblerone people! But the best bang for your buck? Nutella. I was obsessed with Nutella. So exotic, right?! When I came back from camp I told my parents about this magical, chocolatey product. And they came home with it the next day. I was kind of crushed because it wasn’t really that special. But then again I had an easy way of obtaining Nutella…so I got over it!
If you’ve learned one thing about me so far, I have very strong connections to food through memory or certain associations. I think that’s why I love food so much. I always look to recreate these, but in my own way. I’ve done just that with these recipes. Slightly bitter and flavorful little graham-men in the shape of gingerbread men for the season! And hearts, duh. (PS that is the second time I’ve used ‘duh’ in just a few paragraphs…I guess I’m feeling rather sassy today) Dip ‘em in smooth, homemade Nutella for the full experience. Looking for something to bring to your family’s holiday party? This is it!!!
I have so many graham recipes that I want to try (Including this gorgeous one from Molly), but I never really knew how graham crackers were made or what graham flour was! Generally whole-grain wheat flour is created by crushing the entire wheat kernel and grinding everything to a small particle size. That’s the germ, endosperm, and bran of the grain. Graham flour is made by cracking the kernel and separating the endosperm from the germ and bran. The endosperm is ground finely like what you’d find in normal wheat flour, while the germ and bran are milled coarsely. Then they’re recombined! The result? Textured flour that retains some of its natural flavor. That’s what lends some of the unique flavor of graham crackers.
Generally, you probably encounter bleached or unbleached white flour in your normal baking. That’s actually just ground endosperm and has less flavor. You can create your own graham flour by combining white flour with wheat germ and wheat bran! Personally I’d spring for some Bob’s Red Mill graham flour, but you may have trouble finding it in an average grocery store.
Well I’ve got your own little graham men and creamy hazelnut chocolate spread right here! You’re almost there…just a little more!
Adapted from The Splendid Table
1 cup raw hazelnuts (also called filberts)
12 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat your oven to 350⁰F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes. The skins should begin to pull away from some of the hazelnuts.
- Remove from oven and rub as much skin off of the hazelnuts as you can with a kitchen towel. If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’ll try to get everything off, but it’s just not possible without killing yourself. So just do the best you can. Set aside to cool completely.
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave in short bursts or over a double-boiler until smooth.
- In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the melted chocolate. Process until as smooth as you like. Add the melted chocolate and blend well.
- The Nutella will be pretty thin, but it will harden over time at room temp. Before you eat it, heat in bursts and stir to make dip-able again. It will keep for a few weeks at room temp—longer in the fridge.
Teddy Graham Men
Adapted from How Sweet It Is
Makes about 96 small men/hearts
2 cups graham flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into a few smaller pieces
¼ cup molasses (adjust for weaker flavor)
¼ cup whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- Add the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt to a food processor. Pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and blend until coarse crumbs remain. Add the molasses, milk, and vanilla to the mixture and pulse until the dough comes together as a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Roll the dough out after chilling on a lightly floured surface. It should be about ¼ inch thick. If your dough is a bit crumbly and not sticking together well, add a few drops of water until it just comes together.
- Cut out your shapes and poke with a few holes to keep from bubbling. Bake on a parchment-covered baking sheet for 8-10 minutes. The dark colored dough makes it difficult to tell when they are beginning to change to golden brown, so I think it’s easier to tell by carefully picking a cookie up from the sheet. If it doesn’t stick or bend, they’re done!
- Let cool. These will keep in a tightly-sealed container for a few days. Serve with Nutella for a real treat!