Homemade crackers

herb and cheese crackers

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.

I was really excited when this challenge was announced. I love making crackers at home. They make a wonderful snack, the perfect companion for dips, you can play around with flavors by adding seeds, herbs, spices, nuts or different cheeses and the best part they are free of additives and preservatives and artifical flavors.

Dana challenged us to make crackers using two techniques: rolled by hand or a pasta machine crackers and the slice and bake or freezer crackers.

I made 3 crackers, the first was Alton Brown’s seedy crackers. I added flax seeds to the mix to increase the nutritional value. The second was a slice and bake herb, tomato and cheese cracker . The last was a sweet cracker that I will be sharing with you soon

Seedy crackers

Slightly modified from  Alton Brown’s recipe. These crackers were super crunchy. I loved them topped with a little labneh, mint  and served along side some grapes! Mmmmm

1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) whole wheat four

1 cup (240 ml) 140 gm/5 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour

1/4 cup poppy seeds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (9 gm) table salt

1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (8 gm) baking powder

3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (195 ml) (6½ fl oz) water
Mix the whole wheat flour,all purpose flour, seeds, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
Add the oil and stir until combined.
Add the water until the dough comes together.
Kneed the dough 5 or 6 times (you do not want to over work the dough) and allow to rest, covered, on the counter for 15 minutes.(this ensures that all the flour is hydrated)

You can also chill the dough at this point and continue working with it at a later time

Preheat the oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.

Divide the dough into three parts keeping two covered
Working with one part  of the dough at a time, roll out the dough. You can either use a rolling pin or pasta rollers (if you have them).

Once the dough is rolled to the desired thickness place the rolled sheets of dough of a tray lined with parchment paper.

You can cut the crackers into squares or rectangles using a pizza cutter or you can bake them as one sheet and break them into pieces after baking

Bake the crackers until the edges are golden brown (this will take 7-10 mintes depending on their thickness)then place them under the broiler till the top is golden brown (2-3 minutes)

If the crackers are not crispy enough after cooling, turn on the oven at 200 C for 10 minutes, place the crackers on a tray in the oven and turn it off and leave them in the oven until it cools down

Herb tomato and cheese crackers

No cracker challenge would be complete without a cheese cracker. I decided to use Monterey Jack cheese and thought of flavors that would compliment it well. I decided to use sundried tomatoes and basil and they were amazing. The smell of them baking in the oven was irresistable and the kids could hardly wait for them to cool down. I served these with a dip (recipe follows) and most of them were gone in the same day!

170 gm monterey Jack cheese grated

55 gm (1/2 stick) (4 tablespoons) butter softened

100 gm (3/4 cup) flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes chopped  (drained from oil if they are packed in oil or soaked with water if they are the dry type)

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon herbs de provance

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Combine butter, herbs, tomato and cheese

Add the flour, salt and paprika and stir to combine (the mix will look slightly crumbly)

Form the dough into a logs and wrap with cling film

Chill for at least an hour and up to several days. The log can be frozen at this point for several months.

Heat the oven to moderate  180 C.

Slice a log into thin or thick slices depending on how crisp you would like them to be and place on a parchment lined baking sheet

Bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown

Store in an airtight container and eat within three days

Sundried tomatoes and herbs dip

1 cup labneh, sour cream or cream cheese

3 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes (drained from oil if they are packed in oil or soaked with water if they are the dry type)

1/2 teaspoon herbs de provance

2 tablespoons sliced pitted olives

Mix all the dip ingredients until well combined

It is better to make this ahead of time, this allows the flavors to come together and develop better

Sweet sesame crackers

These were an attempt to recreate the sweet sesame crackers used to make for us when we were kids. They were crunchy, with hints of anaise and fennel and loads of sesame seeds, slightly sweet and perfect with a cup of tea.This recipe I tried was close but not the same.A very good cracker in its own right but not exactly the one I was looking for. This one is a yeasted cracker and it was softer, more chewy while the crackers I remember were crunchy and crisp. I will try to experiment with a few other recipes and keep you posted

Ingredients
1 Kg white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar (if you like them sweet use 1 cup instead of 1/2)
1/2 cup margarine  + 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon instant yeast
 1/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons kaaek spice mix(if you can’t find this replace it with 1 tablespoon groud anaise and 1/2 tablespoon ground fennel seeds)
1/3 cup sesame seeds (or more if you like the sesame to be obvious)
1 tablespoon anise seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon Nigella seeds
About 2 cups warm milk for kneading the dough
Method
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of water, add the teaspoon of sugar and wait for the yeast to foam and bubble
In a bowl add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and all the seeds and spices
Add the melted margarine and the oil  to the flour mixture and rub them into the flour with your finger tips till the mix looks like wet sand
Start kneading the dough, adding the milk gradually (you may not need it all) till you get a smooth dough
 Cover and allow to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size
Cut the dough into  22 small balls then allow them to rest for 10 minutes
Roll each dough into a circle 2-3 mm thick and 7-10 cm across
Tip: rolling the dough on parchment paper makes transfering them to the baking sheet easier
Cover the ones you roll with a clean towel till you finish the rest
Allow them to rest for 15 minutes
Preheat the oven to 220 (place the rack on the bottom)
Transfer your cracker disks to the baking sheet
Bake till the bottoms become golden brown then place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to get the tops to become golden brown
Take them out of the oven and spread them on a clean cloth or towel or kitchen paper and leave to cool
 If you like them extra crispy, turn the oven off and leave them in the oven till it cools down completely

Notes:

If the crackers are not crispy enough after cooling, turn on the oven at 200 C for 10 minutes, place the crackers on a tray in the oven and turn it off and leave them in the oven until it cools down. (This works for cookies and granola too)

Omit the tomatoes and herbs and you have a basic cheese cracker recipe you can play around with, add different nuts and / or herbs..get creative.

If you are looking for some dip ideas to try with your crackers how about trying some of these?

Mutawam “roasted zucchini garlic yogurt dip”

Olive tapenade

Baba ghanouj

Storage and freezing

Generally, crackers with less fat and cheese last for weeks in an airtight container and richer crackers only a few days. The rolling craker dough can be made days ahead, stored in the fridge and baked when needed. The icebox cracker dough can be frozen for several months before thawed, sliced and baked.This way you can enjoy your homemade crackers anytime you want.