5.21.2012

Going crackers: Absolutely worthwhile whole grain buttermilk cracker recipe


Well, yes. Since you asked. I am going crackers.  Why? Because I'm learning a lesson this week: If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, accept it.

While I chew on a craw full of hard-to-swallow immutable facts in an attempt to accept them, I am making crackers. The kind of crackers I am making are those that anyone who psychologically can commit to spending five or six dollars for fifteen crackers would buy in a box. Only much, much better. It’s not that I’m a cheapskate (well, maybe a little) but the fact is, I love crackers. I am the aficionado of crackerdom. Crackers are my comfort food. Weird, but in a good way.

If you’ve ever cringed at the taste of powdered garlic, onion and ‘other spices’ (read mystery ingredients) you will understand why I have chosen to do something about the cracker situation. Sometimes it’s best to just tackle the smaller problems, and let the bigger ones work themselves out. That’s what makes cooking so satisfying. So, I made these utterly addicting buttermilk crackers with olive oil. They’re not quite one hundred percent whole grain, but close enough. After I made them, I killed some more time making stuff to spread on them. Very therapeutic.



What I love about these thin crackers is that they are neutral without being bland. When you take the first crisp bite, you think, hmmm, nice texture, but not very….by the time you get to that point in your mental monologue, the olive oil and salt kick in. After that comes the je-ne-sais-quoi flavor (it’s buttermilk.) Now you are on your way to I-can’t-stop-eating-these.  I also love that you can make them at least seventeen different ways, depending on what you put on top.

One of my favorite versions is with sesame seeds and black Turkish salt, which I received as a gift from Mark Bitterman of The Meadow.  Thank you, Mark. I’ve been saving those samplers. And yes, I am also that person who saves her expensive new dress for a special occasion and then wears it only to observe the fashion police shake their heads in disgust. (They think I’m too out of it to notice, but I do.) Luckily, salt is not perishable and will never go out of style. If you have been hoarding some fancy salt, here’s your chance to use it. Other toppings you could use are seeds of all kinds—make them spicy or not. Toasted cumin seeds, coarsely crushed coriander, a bit of chili powder or red pepper pack some punch. You could also use caraway, fennel, celery seed, poppy seeds….you get the idea. Have some fun. I haven’t even scratched the surface with Parmesan or other cheeses.

This dough is easy to work with. Start by shaping it into a flat rectangle. It always makes sense to form dough into the same shape that you want the finished sheet of dough to be once it is rolled out. If you want wedges, shape the dough into flat rounds, and cut it like a pie. Let it rest in the refrigerator to allow it to completely hydrate (absorb the liquid) and to allow the gluten to relax. Roll it out as thin as you can. One-third of the dough, rolled evenly, will cover a half-sheet pan. Use the flat of your hands to push the dough around to stretch it if you need to. Press the seeds into the dough with a rolling pin to embed them. When you bake the crackers, be sure they are crisp all the way through before taking them out of the oven.



Absolutely worthwhile whole grain buttermilk cracker recipe
Makes 3 dozen thin crackers

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (192g) whole wheat flour
1 cup (126g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (72g) brown  rice flour, plus more for rolling
1 1/2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing on the dough
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons seeds such as poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, celery seeds, etc.
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon salt

Method:
1. Whisk the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown rice flour, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt in a bowl until combined. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil and buttermilk. Stir, gradually incorporating the flour into the olive oil mixture, until it forms a dough. It should be soft but not too sticky. Add additional buttermilk if it is dry.

2. Turn the dough out onto the countertop. Knead for about 20 seconds, until it is well mixed. Shape into a flat rectangle and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or as long as overnight.

3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 half sheet pans (approx 18 X 13 inches) with parchment.

4. Divide the dough into thirds. Lightly flour the counter top with brown rice flour, and flour a rolling pin. Roll one piece of dough into a large sheet that is the same size as the sheet pan and approximately 1/16-inch thick (about the thickness of a quarter.) If necessary, lift the dough and sprinkle a sparing amount of flour underneath it to keep it from sticking. If the shape starts to go AWOL, place the flat of your hands on top of the dough to stretch it into a rectangular shape. Transfer it to the paper. Slip both hands under the paper and lift it onto the baking sheet.

5. Brush the dough with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons of the seeds and a little flaky salt. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top, and roll over the seeds with a rolling pin to embed them into the dough.  Peel off the plastic.

6. With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into thirds the long way.  Rotate the baking sheet and cut into 4 equal pieces crossways to make 12 crackers.   Trim the uneven outside edges with the pizza cutter. Leave the edges on the baking sheet. These are the cook’s taste testers. (You can cut the crackers any size you want; this cut will make large squares.) Repeat with remaining dough.

7. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, or until the crackers are golden brown and crisp all the way through. Let cool on the pan and store in an airtight tin.

The stuff on top

Lemon flavored ricotta: Mix ricotta with some lemon zest (1/2 cup ricotta to half a lemon). Season with salt and pepper and a few drops of lemon juice. Top with thinly sliced radishes, some sliced sugar snap peas (raw or blanched), a few herbs, more salt and pepper. Eat for lunch.

Feta and honey. Mix ricotta and feta together to taste (about half and half). Spread on crackers. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with black pepper.

Herby: Mix chopped fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, parsley, chives, whatever  strikes your fancy) into either of the above spreads. To make a molded cheese spread, line a small ramekin or bowl with plastic or cheesecloth, pack the cheese into the mold, and refrigerate. Unmold and cover with more chopped herbs.




14 comments:

  1. These look totally delicious Sally! We are nuts for good crackers, but they've got to be healthy too...and looks like your recipe fits the bill! I've been wanting to make homemade crackers forever but just have not gotten around to it. I want to roll out the dough with my hand crank pasta machine. Have you ever tried that? Got to try making these. Thanks as always for a terrific post!

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    1. I considered using my pasta machine, but wanted to design the recipe so you could make them without any special equipment. I am sure you could do it though. The dough is pretty easy to roll in one thin sheet. They are wholesome and wholly addicting--I think you will like them!

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  2. Wow, these crackers look amazing... :)

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  3. Sally, these photos are absolutely gorgeous! As usual. ;) I tried crackers once and it wasn't quite what I hoped, but I'll have to play around with this recipe. I'm up to my eyeballs in specialty flours, so I might try subbing with chickpea flour and seeing what happens. Will let you know!

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    1. Marie, They're pretty good, if I do say so. Have not tried a gf version of these--the dough is pliable and a little stretchy using wheat flour--let me know if you try them, and how the chickpea flour works out.

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  4. These look fantastic. Bookmarking now. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Thanks El, hope you have a good one, too.

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  5. I'm drooling over that last photograph and thinking, "Isn't there supposed to be a gin and tonic in there someplace? At least as a prop?" Fabulous light, and great cackers. KEN

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    1. If I'd taken it later in the day, I surely would have thought of that--definitely one of my favorite drinks of the summer (it's here!!)

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  6. Hi Sally,
    Great to meet you the other night. Your site and photos are gorgeous. Good luck with all that is ahead.
    Cheers,
    Debbie

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    1. Debra, Wonderful to meet you, too! And thanks for the good wishes...

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  7. Hi Sally,

    I am back and catching up on my favorite blogs. What a great idea to make your own crackers. I've never done that. It's on my to do list after your inspiring post :)

    Cheers,
    -Helen

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    1. Helen, They are kind of addicting. I almost wish I hadn't made this "experiment." It's hard to go back to crackers in the box. I may just try using a pasta machine next time. Will keep you posted.

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