Monday, May 20, 2013

Homemade Crackers That Actually Crunch

I know it's been awhile, and I'm sorry it's been so long since I updated. So I brought you something nice. Here it is:

I have looked far and wide on the internet for a decent homemade cracker recipe. Every one* reminded me of that Pinterest Fail blog - the recipes are never, ever as good as the pictures, and don't seem to crunch until they're burnt. And then, they're burnt.
*(okay, I only tried three, but they were all pretty much the same)

So, I tried again, using my own recipe. And voila! FAILURE! The same chewy, not quite crackers that every other "bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes" recipe produces. Bleh. I'm pretty sure most of those recipes are planted online by Nabisco, so you'll keep on buying their trans-fat chemical crunchy delicious crackers.

But then, I remembered my friend, biscotti. So crunchy, and yet not rolled out super thin. So, I popped those guys back in the oven for 25 minutes at 250 degrees, and it was magic. There are a few things to keep in mind when making crackers, to make them awesome:
1. Do roll them out thin. Thinness in a cracker is the difference between crispy and "you broke a tooth".
2. Do not abuse the dough. No kneading. NONE. I use Blue Bird flour, which is a low gluten flour that you can really only get here in New Mexico, but you should be fine with all purpose flour, just don't knead it. Or, you can also use cake or pastry flour, but it doesn't have to be fancy like that.
3. You really have to have parchment paper. Trust me on this.

You can use any recipe or change this one up, and it will work if you use the double baking method to crunch them up. Increasing the amount of fat, and adding a bit of baking powder will also make them a bit more "Ritz Cracker" than "Wheat Thin". For this recipe, you would add 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and up to 6 Tbs. of oil instead of 3. Also, transfats are the devil, but they do increase the shelf life of foods - so if you can't eat these within 3 days, using Crisco or Butter Flavor Crisco will keep them good for a couple of weeks.

Homemade Crackers Recipe

2 cups flour (white, wheat, rye, or a combination)
3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder (optional)
3 Tbs. room temperature butter (or shortening, or olive oil, or nut oil)
3/4 cup water (or milk is good too)
extra flour for rolling out the dough
sprinkles (sea salt, kosher salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, Parmesan cheese or whatever)

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut in the solid fats, if using solids, until it looks like corn meal. You can use a pastry cutter, a fork, or your hands to mix in the solid fats. If using liquid fats, mix them in a separate bowl with the water. Add the liquid all at once, and mix with a fork, just until the liquid is absorbed. If there's still dry flour on the bottom, you can add up to 1/4 cup more water so that can be all mixed in and moistened. Smush your dough together into a ball, and then put it in a zip lock bag. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight. Take the dough out of the fridge, and divide it into 4 equal balls. Cut a couple of pieces of parchment paper to fit a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the paper with flour, and with a heavy rolling pin, roll out one ball of dough directly on the parchment paper. If it's a bit sticky, just use more flour so it doesn't stick to your rolling pin. It's okay if it sticks to the paper, and it probably will. Roll it as thin as you can, no more than 1/8" thick. Sprinkle generously with your sprinkles. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut your rolled dough into squares, 1-2" wide, and then pick up the whole piece of parchment paper with the crackers on it, put it on the cookie sheet, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-13 minutes, until lightly browned. When done, set your crackers aside and repeat with the other 3 balls of dough. You can be rolling out the next ball on a parchment sheet while the previous one is cooking. Then, turn the oven down to 250 degrees, and put all the crackers on the cookie sheet without the parchment paper. Spread them out, but it's okay if they're crowded up on there. Bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until they are crunchy. Really thin crackers may be crunchy after just 15 minutes, thicker crackers may take up to 35 minutes. Makes about 100 crackers.