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Daring Bakers July 2012|Crackers!

Hello Daring Bakers!

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.

Oh my crackers are a deceptively simple thing!  Very quick to make and easy to put together with ingredients you almost surely have on hand in the kitchen, crackers are something that can be thrown together on almost a moment’s notice.

BUT – don’t be deceived.  Just because they seem simple does not mean that they will come out perfectly or taste spectacular with a mere 15 minutes taken to throw some stuff together and bake it.  Oh no.  Crackers need some thought and planning.  And they need to be minded.  As simple as they are, really lovely crackers take some love.

That said, this month’s challenge was also fun precisely because it was so simple – easy enough for me to make the three versions our gorgeous hostess posted for trying.

Simple does not, however, equal foolproof.  As “simple” as the recipes were, I still managed to not follow instructions and bung them up a bit.

The first set of crackers – probably my favorite – called “Health Crackers” were hearty and quite flavorful.  They were a bit odd (I noticed that although I liked them quite a bit, no one at work took seconds when I offered them up), most likely because I swapped out flax seed meal for the wheat germ.  They tasted a little like a wheat thin, which I liked.

The second batch I tried was the “Seedy Crackers” (pictured at top), which I thought would be my favorite, based on the photos.  They were actually the most difficult cracker, being the easiest to burn.  It turns out that “burning” crackers doesn’t require a full-on change to blackened color, just an over baking and you’ve got something that isn’t right.  Sure you can eat them, but they don’t taste worthy of your precious daily carbohydrate allotment.

The good news!  You can recook crackers!  If you’re worried about burning them (as I should have been), you can take them out of the oven, let them cool, and then throw them back in the oven if they aren’t crispy enough.  As our hostess points out in her instructions, what you’re really doing with crackers is drying them, more than baking them, and they can go in the oven multiple times until you get the crispy you’re looking for.

The third batch of crackers (and most popular with the other residents of Chez Us) was the Pepper Jack and Oregano crackers.

These were by far the most flavorful, sporting cheese (I substituted some Jalapeño Jack for the Pepper Jack with nice spicy results), spices (I also omitted the oregano, which wasn’t sorely missed but probably would have upped the yum factor) and a topping, which I think was the real tastiness amplifier of the crackers (add sugar, salt and cayenne to the top of almost anything and you’ll have something that is very hard to stop eating – that’s a deadly combo!).  The only reason these crackers wouldn’t be my favorite is that they go stale quickly and the texture wasn’t quite what I was after in a cracker.  Flavor-wise, they were aces.

The only thing disappointing (to me) about this challenge is that it took place in the height of the summer and we have no A/C.  I know, it’s tough to be a Daring Baker in the summer – I would have loved to make a batch of these every few days to experiment with different flavors and colorings (I had a crash course in photographing brown/beige this month!), but it was just too freaking hot to turn on the oven more than three times mid-afternoon.*

Thanks to Miss Dana for a rock solid challenge, the kind that I really love.  It’s deceptively simple, incredibly flexible and encourages us to use our creativity while challenging us to make from scratch something that most of us (me) would normally buy pre-made.  I will definitely be experimenting with some other recipes in the future to find a favorite to make all the time.

Until next month friends – Dare on!

Cheers.

*Yes, I could make crackers in the morning but we’re talking about my weekends here (which means I’m asleep) and turning on the oven in the AM only ensures inferno-like conditions by mid-day.  So no AM baking.

Health Crackers (Roll these by hand):

Servings: Approximately 80 crackers

Ingredients

3 cups (720 ml) (240 gm)(8½ oz) rolled oats
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup (240 ml) (80 gm) (2¾ oz) wheat germ
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (40 gm)(1½ oz) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
¾ cup (180 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 large egg white
Cracker topping:
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nigella (onion) seeds, salt
Salt sprinkling

Directions:

1. Mix the oats, flour, wheat germ sugar and salt together in a large bowl or bowl for the standup mixer.
2. Combine the water and oil and stir into the oat mixture until it comes together and a dough forms.

3. Form dough into a disk and allow to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes but up to a day if you are making the ahead.
4. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
5. Divide the dough into quarters and work with one piece at a time, allowing the remaining pieces to stay in the fridge as you proceed with rolling out the crackers.
6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/16 inch (1½ mm) thick and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet by carefully wrapping the dough around the rolling pin.

7. Brush the dough with the egg white mixed briefly with a tablespoon of water and sprinkle with seeds and salt of your choice.
8. Cut the dough with a pizza wheel and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned. Crackers that are not crispy once cooled may be returned to the oven.
9. Store in an airtight container and eat within two weeks

Seedy Crisps (Roll with pasta rollers or by hand):

Servings: Varies depending on thickness; approximately 50 crackers

Ingredients

1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) whole wheat four
1 cup (240 ml) 140 gm/5 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup (80 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz)poppy seeds
1/3 cup (80 ml) (40 gm) (1¼ oz) 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

Directions

1. Mix the flours, seeds, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
2. Add the oil and stir until combined.
3. Add the water until the dough comes together.
4. Kneed the dough 5 or 6 times and allow to rest, covered, on the counter for 15 minutes. You can also chill the dough at this point and come back later.

5. Preheat the oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.
6. Working with a quarter of the dough at a time, either use a rolling pin to reach a desired thickness (thick or thin) or roll out in your pasta rollers. If you use pasta rollers, ensure the dough is well-floured so as not to stick.

7. Place strips of dough on a sheet pan lined with parchment.

8. If the crackers are thick, bake for 7minutes, flip them over and bake for 7 minutes more. Then cut or break into crackers shapes while still warm. Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until crispy.
9. If not crispy enough when cooled, crackers can be returned to the oven.
10. Store in an airtight container and eat within 2 weeks

Pepper Jack and Oregano Crackers (Roll with pasta rollers or by hand):

Servings: Approximately 80 crackers

Ingredients

1⅔ cups (400 ml) (235 gm) (8¼ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
2¼ cups (540 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) grated pepper jack cheese, firmly packed
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1 gm) dried oregano
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (½ gm) black pepper
½ cup (120 ml) (4 fl oz) vegetable oil
½ cup (120 ml) (4 fl oz) water

Spice topping

¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1/8 gm) cayenne
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) kosher salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar

Directions:

1. Combine the spice topping and set aside.
2. Grate the cheese and put in the bowl of a food processor with flour, oregano, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. This can also be done by hand.

3. Add the oil and pulse until the consistency of wet sand is reached.

4. Add enough water for the dough to come together.

5. Form the dough into two disks, wrap with cling film and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
6. Heat the oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
7. Working with a quarter of the dough at a time, either use a rolling pin or roll out in your pasta rollers to 1/8 of an inch (3 mm) thick. If you use pasta rollers, ensure the dough is well floured so as not to stick.
8. Cut the strips into cracker shapes or cut out using a cookie cutter.

9. Transfer to a parchment lined cookies sheet and sprinkle with the spice mixture.
10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until medium golden brown.
11. Store in an airtight container and eat within three days

Cheddar, Rosemary and Walnut Icebox Crackers (form into a log and slice):

Servings: Approximately 48 crackers

Ingredients

½ cup (120 ml) (1 stick) (115 gm/4 oz) butter, well softened
2¼ cups (540 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) grated aged cheddar cheese (the better the cheese, the better the cracker), firmly packed
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (285 ml) (190 gm/6oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) (60 gm/2 oz) finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (1¾ gm) finely chopped rosemary

Directions:

1. Combine butter, rosemary and cheese in a stand mixer and beat well (can also be done by hand)

2. Add the flour, salt and nuts and stir to combine
3. Form the dough into two tight logs and wrap with cling film

4. Chill for at least an hour and up to several days. The log can be frozen at this point for several months.
5. Heat the oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
6. Slice a log into 5mm (1/5 inch) coins and place on a parchment lined baking sheet

7. Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown
8. Store in an airtight container and eat within three days
9. Try this recipe with different cheeses, nuts (or no nuts), and spices. Get creative!

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

Storage and freezing outlined in each recipe. Generally I find that crackers with less fat and cheese last for weeks in an airtight container and richer crackers only a few days. 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.

Additional Information:

Here is a link to gluten free crackers, which I found successful: http://www.nourishingmeals.com/2010/01/gluten-free-quinoa-seed-crackers-…

Disclaimer:

The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of “alternate baking/cooking”. If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it. If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. The responsibility is YOURS regardless of what health issue you’re dealing with. Please consult your physician with any questions before using an ingredient you are not familiar with. Thank you!

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