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Accidental Barley Graham Crackers: Lessons in Baking Without a Recipe


Shortbread is definitely my favorite cookie. It isn’t sickeningly sweet, like most cookies, and they are dead simple to make. So dead simple, in fact, that the other day I decided I could take a quick glance at a recipe and then go from there.

I had barley flour, so I decided I’d use that in place of all-purpose flour. I do that a lot – substituting different flours for all-purpose – and most of the time it works well. There’s a bit of finagling one has to do with the amount of liquid, letting the dough sit to hydrate, etc. But with that in the back of my mind I can usually make it work. (Also, I don’t particularly like to follow recipes. Which is why I don’t usually bake with them, or at least not with any personal need to stick with them. There, my secret’s out.)

Then I decided I’d use sorghum molasses instead of sugar. There are all sorts of things that this throws off – sweetness, moisture, and acidity for starters. But hey, things were already getting wildly out of hand so why not?

I stuck with butter for the fat, ya know, since I didn’t want to muck anything up.

So yeah, at this point I was not making shortbread cookies, even though I thought I was. I patted the dough out onto the greased cookie sheet thinking it felt a bit too moist for shortbread. I cut it into eighths thinking it would fall into a billion pieces after it was baked. I docked it all over with a fork wondering if it would even remotely resemble a cookie.

It turned out to be the best graham crackers we’ve ever had.

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Barley Graham Crackers

Course: Breads



  • 14 cup salted butter softened
  • 14 cup sorghum molasses (or honey or molasses)
  • 2 Tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 34 cup barley flour plus more as needed


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter and molasses. Stir in tapioca flour and barley flour. At this point it might look more like frosting than dough, or it may look like dough. It’s okay.
  3. Just add another 1/4 cup of barley flour and mix. Repeat until you have a dough that is still quite soft, but not sticky. You should be able to scrape it out with moist hands.
  4. Grease a baking sheet and plop the dough in the middle. Lightly moisten your hands and pat the dough out into a rough circle about 1/16″ thick. Wet down the blade of a sharp knife and cut the dough into eighths. Use a fork to dock the dough all over.
  5. Place the dough in preheated oven for 15-25 minutes, or until it starts to brown up around the edges and the center is firm. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.

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