Monday, August 23, 2010

Salt, Pepper and Sesame Crackers

I have a cracker problem. Unlike the zucchini problem and the corn problem, the cracker problem is pan-seasonal, and it knows no limits. Specifically, I really really love Kashi's crackers (and they're not paying me to say that).

According to the normal laws of food addiction, after pounding them for years, I should be vomitously sick of Kashi crackers. But I'm not. I think that they put crack in them or something, like along the lines of blueberry bar and grill bread crack.

You know how chefs play the last meal game? As in, if you knew that this was to be your last meal on Earth, what would you eat? Well, contrary to expectations, a lot of chefs do not choose foie gras, truffles, or caviar--they choose fried chicken, peanut butter and jelly, cheese burgers, macaroni and cheese, or a nice steak...

Well, my last meal would have to include crackers; heck, it could maybe even be crackers, as a vehicle for some sort of fattiness, whether it be cheese, pesto, or romesco. Therefore, I figured that it's probably time to move beyond the Kashi. Shouldn't I have my own, homemade cracker to obsess over?

That's where these crackers come in. There's nothing especially exceptional about them, but they seemed like a good place to start because they're very approachable--all you do is mix some simple stuff together, roll out the resulting dough, and bake it. 

The original recipe came from Chocolate and Zucchini, and I altered it a bit based on the ingredients I had on hand. You may also notice that my crackers are way thicker than the ones on the Chocolate and Zucchini site. I, being the genius that I am, thought that I would prefer a thicker cracker (like the Kashi ones), as opposed to the light, thin, shattery ones from the original recipe. 

Well, my crackers were pretty yummy, but they're a bit dry and tough. So it's probably best to keep these on the thin side, thus the pasta roller method suggested below. But despite their toughness, Nick still described them as being 'pretty good.' That's saying a lot from someone who does not hear the Cracker Siren Call as I do. The Mister, of course, loves them, but he gets so excited that he looks like he's having a seizure any time there's any cracker in his general vicinity, so that's not saying too much.

If you do feel the need to modify though, I would suggest adding some fresh herbs like some rosemary or sage, or some spices, like anything from cayenne to cumin seeds to cardamom.

Salt, Pepper, and Sesame Crackers
(Adapted from Zucchini and Chocolate)

  • 150 grams (5 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour 
  • 150 grams (5 1/3 ounces) white whole wheat or whole wheat flour (or you can use all regular flour)
  • 20 grams (3 tablespoons) toasted sesame seeds
  • 9 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) water

Place the flours, seeds and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and stir it in with a fork. Add the water and mix it in.

When the water is absorbed, turn the mixture out on a clean work surface and knead the dough gently to gather into a smooth ball. Add a touch more water if the dough feels too dry to come together, but the consistency you're shooting for is smooth, not at all sticky or tacky.

Divide the dough into 3 pieces of (roughly) equal size, and cover with a kitchen towel.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and prepare two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicon baking mats -- this is so you can bake two batches of crackers at a time, but if you only have one baking sheet, that's fine, too. If you have a rectangular or square bread stone, place it in the oven as it preheats; you'll need only one baking sheet in addition to the stone then.

Take one piece of dough (keep the others covered to prevent them from drying out) and flatten it into an oval disk between the palms of your hands. Set a pasta roller on the widest setting, and slip the disk of dough in the roller to thin it out. Fold both ends of the dough back over each other like a business letter and slip the dough in again. Repeat 3 or 4 times until the dough feels supple; you are essentially kneading the dough in the process. If it gets sticky at any point, dust it with a little flour.

Switch the pasta roller to the next (= narrower) setting and slip the dough in (just once this time) to thin it out. Repeat with the subsequent settings until you reach setting #5, and get a thin (I also think that 4 might work), long rectangularish sheet of dough. Place it on one of the prepared baking sheets, or a flour-dusted peel if you're using a bread stone.

(I think that if you don't have a pasta roller, you can probably roll these out by hand. Just make sure that the dough is relatively even, so that you don't end up with burnt spots interspersed with doughy spots.)

Repeat with more pieces of dough until there is no room left on your baking sheets. Using a dough cutter, a pastry wheel or just a knife, score the sheets of dough into square or triangular pieces so they'll be easier to break off.

Insert the baking sheets into the oven (or, if you're using a pizza stone, slide the dough in using the pizza peel) and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden to golden brown.

Transfer to a cooling rack, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
The crackers will keep for a few weeks in an airtight container.

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