Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.
This was another challenge that I really liked the sound of. I’ve made a few crackery kind of things before, though none have made it to the pages of Rock Salt. My favourites have been these hazelnut and thyme matchsticks from LC, which were a huge hit even if I did manage to make them in wildly varying sizes instead of the delightfully uniform matchsticks that the recipe suggests. I was glad to try a couple of new recipes this month, though my inability to produce beautifully shaped crackers did rear its head again on the second batch…
The first crackers I tried were a departure form one of the suggested recipes. I made whole wheat olive and pine nut star crackers, which tasted better for being shaped as they were, I’m sure of it. The recipe is like this:
- 20 black olives
- 1 teaspoon smoked garlic powder (home made for preference)
- 140g self-raising whole wheat flour
- 140g plain flour
- 50g pine nuts, well crushed with a few larger pieces remaining
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 195 ml water
I started the night before I was going to bake the crackers, though you could do it all in one day if you started early, by drying out the olives. I chopped them into appropriately sized bits, put them on a baking tray lined with greased tinfoil, and baked at 60C (a very low oven) for an hour and a half, until mostly dried. I left them in the oven overnight and took them out when I was ready to start making the crackers.
I dried out some smoked garlic cloves while I was about it, to make the garlic powder. The olive pieces shrink a little while they bake – they don’t look that appetising but they taste good! The flavour is concentrated as you dry them, and they are better for baking with when they’re a bit dehydrated, less likely to cause accidental sogginess.
When I was ready to start baking, I mixed the garlic powder, flours, pine nuts and salt together in a bowl, then added the oil and stirred through to form large crumbs. Finally, the water went in, enough to form a firm and dry dough. You can add it a little at a time, that’s the safest way.
I rested the dough, covered, for fifteen minutes before rolling out to about a quarter of an inch thick on a floured surface. I stamped the crackers out with my trusty star shaped cookie cutter, and baked for four minutes on each side, at 230C – a hot oven. This gave really crisp, biscuity crackers which were fine on their own but something pretty special when paired with a basil flavoured dip. There are no pictures of that, we ate it too fast…
My second crackers were Pepperjack Crackers, made following the given recipe but using the ‘icebox’ method. We don’t say ‘icebox’ here in the UK. Does it just mean fridge? Anyway, the recipe for these is as follows:
- 235g plain flour
- 225g grated pepper jack cheese, firmly packed
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon smoked sea salt
- several turns black pepper
- 120 ml vegetable oil
- 120 ml cold water
I followed the recipe to a point, starting by combining the flour, cheese, oregano, salt and pepper in the food processor. Then I added the oil and pulsed until the mix resembled ‘wet sand’ – this is a sneak peak as to what that looked like:
I then added the water and pulsed until the dough came together completely – this was really quick. I rolled it out and shaped into a rectangular log, planning on slicing it into rectangular crackers later. Nice idea, right?
I stuck it in the freezer, but ended up leaving it there until the next day. This proved to be a mistake, because even after I’d let the dough thaw out on the counter, when I tried to slice it the crackers, well, cracked in the middle. Even though I was using a sharp knife, I ended up with lots of bits and pieces of dough everywhere, not the beautiful squared off shapes I’d imagined. I smooshed the dough back together again and rolled into a more standard round log. I proceeded to slice it up immediately instead of chilling it again – what an impatient woman I am. The result was more smooshiness and oddly shaped biscuits, as you can see.
I topped the crackers with a few turns of my trusty spice grinder containing salt, pepper, garlic, chili and fennel, then baked them. They went in a low oven, this time – 160C – for 20 minutes. They came out still looking odd but smelling great, a real saving grace.
Thank you to Dana for a great challenge, and I encourage you to go and check out the other Daring Bakers’ posts while you’re online. The variety of shapes, sizes and flavours is, as ever, outstanding. We’re a clever bunch. You can also find the PDF for this month, with the suggested techniques and recipes, here.