Friday, November 10, 2006

Gone Crackers

My DH thinks I’m a freaking genius because I know how to make crackers. I hesitate to tell him that of all the baking I do, crackers are the easiest of the lot. They’re simple, cheap and lend themselves a million variations.

I learned how to make crackers from an ex-boyfriend who also taught me where my threshold for relationship BS was. Since then, I’ve gone crackers and I mean that in a good way ;)

I’ve been known to dine on nothing but hazelnut crackers and a jar of wildflower honey and shards of parma cheese. Sweet crackers go well with cheese. It’s the simple culinary equation of Salty + Sweet = Yummy Balance. Think of lemon-honey cracker with some Parmesan cheese or a sweet hazelnut cracker with a good piece of Natural Pasture’s Boerenkaas cheese.

As much as I enjoy a sweet cracker, I was hankering for a savory cracker this afternoon after my mid-afternoon wandering. Specifically, I was craving black sesame seed cracker (aka Gomashio Cracker).

It may have been partly due to a couple emails and phone calls from friends about what to do with the rest of the bag of black sesame seeds after they’ve made the gomashio dressing from yesterday’s blog that led me to this unleavened yearning. I like to think it was the symphony of fall leaves playing counterpoint to the lush evergreens and the crisp bite of in the air that had me wanting this comfort food.

As mentioned, these crackers are dead easy to make. Here’s my Fast & Dirty recipe for Gomashio Crackers

1 cup flour ( plus more for rolling) – I used stoneground Kamut flour from True Grains Bakery in Cowichan Bay

2 tablespoons of cold butter or vegetable or olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

4-5 black peppercorns

1/3 cup black sesame seeds

¼ cup cold water (plus more if needed)

1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

Preheat over to 400F. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat sheet.

Grind salt, sesame seeds and peppercorn in mortar and pestle or in spice/coffee grinder.

Combine the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. If using butter, cut it into the flour until it’s combined into a fine crumb. Dump in the water, vegetable/olive oil (if using) and sesame seed oil . Mix on low (or do it by hand) until it comes together. If it’s too dry, add water a ½ teaspoon at a time, mixing between. The dough should come together in your hand but not be sticky.

Now you’re ready to roll. Sprinkle work surface with flour. Pull out a golf ball size of dough and roll it out into a long strip about 3 inches wide and about the length of your cookie sheet. Roll out dough to at least ¼ inch thickness. I like my super-thin so I aim for less than 1/8th inch thick.

A pastry cutter or spatula/flipper is helpful in lifting the dough off the work surface. Don’t worry too much about rips in the dough, just pat it back together.

Place onto cookie sheet and repeat. I can usually fit 3 strips into a cookie sheet. Score the crackers with a sharp knife or pastry cutter or pizza cutter so they’ll be easier to break apart later. You could make these even and square but then they would look like store bought crackers. What’s the point of making homemade crackers when they end up look like generic factory made crackers? I like mine with the edges uneven. I believe it makes the cracker taste better.

Pop them into the oven for 8-10 mins or until golden brown. Let cool on rack and enjoy!

These will store for up to a week in airtight container. Feel free to double, triple, heck you may even have to decuple the recipe once everyone gets a taste of them. They are quite addictive.

For other variations try herbs (fresh or dried), nuts and spices like cumin, coriander, curry blend, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, 5 spice blend, cayenne and chipolte pepper are all great cracker additions in my book.

Cheese also does well in this recipe. Hard and semi-hard cheeses like a parma or aged manchego or asiago can be grated in with the dry ingredients. Soft crumbly cheeses like a blue cheese or a feta do great. I find that soft cheeses like Camembert and mozzarella are more difficult to work into the cracker dough and are better off as toppings once the cracker is done.

For sweet variation, decrease the salt in the above recipe to a pinch and add in a teaspoon or 2 of sugar, honey, maple syrup or pomegranate molasses. A spoonful of fig or other fruit preserves can be worked into the dough for added richness and sweetness. Sugar can also be sprinkled and pressed onto the top of the dough before baking. However, I find this makes it too much like cookie. For a sweet touch, I often do nothing more than some spices. Think apple or pumpkin pie type spices. I also like them with citrus zest. If I’m feeling really decadent, I’ll pop in some freshly ground nuts.

For a gluten-free version, replace flour with pretty much any other flour from rice flour (brown or white), corn flour, potato flour (not potato starch) quinoa flour or amaranth flour. The textures will differ from flour to flour. I personally like it with 2 parts brown rice flour, 1 part cornstarch, 1 part corn flour.

It’spast 7pm & I haven’t started on dinner yet. Even though DH is quite enamored with the crackers, he’s not warming up to the idea of crackers for dinner.



1 comment:

Bruce said...

So what did you make for dinner?

Enquiring (& hungry) minds want to know. LOL!

Bruce (from C2C)