Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Soup & Crackers Day

I was going to fix myself some soup and crackers today because it's a soup and crackers day. Overcast, hinting at some form of wetness and just at the south end of a comfy temperature. So, yeah, soup and crackers. Except I didn't have any crackers.

Wait. Why not (gasp!) make my own crackers?

Have I mentioned how much I love Google? It didn't take long to browse abundant cracker recipe links and find an absolute gem of a recipe, one that handily meets my F.E.D. principle. (Fast, Easy, Delicious) If you go to Orb's website, in the food section you'll see the aforementioned recipe titled Orb's Homemade Crackers. I point you there because she deserves the visit and besides, I took certain mild liberties with her recipe so you might want to make comparisons. What follows here is my version of her version, so to speak.


1/2 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
seasoning to taste

In a small bowl mix cheese, flour and seasoning. I grated the cheese at the smallest size, the one that looks like angel hair, figuring it would blend better. I did not put salt in the mixture because I wanted to sprinkle the dough with salt before baking. What I did do was sprinkle in a light touch of cayenne pepper but you can use any seasoning you fancy -- like onion or garlic or rosemary or whatever.

After you've tossed the mixture a bit so the cheese shreds are nicely flour-coated, plop in the softened butter and the water. TWEAK WARNING: Probably cold butter and liquid would make the crackers flakier but warm is easier to mix. Your call. The crackers will be tender-crisp either way. Also, remember my pie crust the other day? The one with vodka? Yeah. I'm gonna use that stuff up one way or 'tother. My liquid of choice today was 2 tablespoons of ginger vodka. I'll bet you could use pretty much any liquid -- water, milk, beer, tomato juice -- you get the idea.

Anyway. Quickly mix the dough until it cleans the bowl and turn it out on a lightly floured surface. TWEAK WARNING: I have one of those silicone baking mats. Figuring the less flour, the better, I turned the dough out directly onto the mat and rolled it as thin as I could, using a light dusting of flour on top of the dough and on the rolling pin. I figured it would be a lot easier to handle the dough this way. If you don't have a baking mat, tear off a sheet of parchment paper to fit your cookie sheet or, if there are no raised sides on the pan, roll out the dough directly onto its lightly oiled surface.

When you've rolled the dough to your satisfaction, take a table knife or wheeled pizza cutter and lightly -- lightly -- score snap lines in the dough. I stress lightly because you don't want to cut your expensive baking mat! After you've scored (heh, heh), poke your dough with a fork -- again, gently -- to minimize puffiness during baking. Now, you could go to a lot of extra effort (and there may be times you'll want to) and patiently cut out little rounds of dough -- or whatever shape you want -- and place them individually on the cookie sheet. That's fine, too. It's just that it's a lot faster and easier to score the sheet of dough and break it up into individual crackers later. So mark your dough and then pick up the silicone baking sheet or parchment paper and lay it on a cookie sheet.

Okay. Now is the time to sprinkle whatever topping you want. I grated some coarse sea salt over the surface. You can go with various herbs or finely chopped nuts or seeds. Gently press the topping into the cracker dough by patting with your fingers. I made the mistake of trying to pass the rolling pin over it. Given that the rolling pin was wider than the cookie sheet (which had raised edges), I pressed unevenly and messed up my nice neat score lines. I'm trying to convince myself that gives the crackers a pleasant artisan look.

I baked these at 350 degrees fairy height for 15 minutes. You might want to experiment with temp and time. As you can see in the above photo, the sheet of dough did not bake evenly. What you can't see is that the darker part is just as delicious as the golden part. I think it's probably wise to keep an eye on progress after the 10-minute mark so the edges don't get too brown.

When you bring it out of the oven, let the pan set on a rack for a bit. When the crackers are cool enough to handle, snap them into individual little guys. They snap quite easily and it's fun to lick your fingers when you're done. You'll end up with somewhere between a cup and two cups of crackers, easily stored in a pint zip-type freezer bag.

I made the mistake of bringing the bag of crackers in here by the computer. And I keep nibbling. If I'm not careful, I'll be too full of crackers to have any appetite for soup. Self-discipline can be so pesky.


Ava South said...

MMm. I do love crackers, but have never made my own. I do hope the soup recipe is forthcoming. ~smile~

Wendy said...

I will most definitely have to try these. Thanks, Dee!

Dee said...

Hmmm. Well, we'll see about the soup recipe, Ava. (grin)

Wendy, do try these. They are seriously easy and wicked good.

John Bailey said...

Brilliant! Somehow it never occurs to most of us that those over-priced cheesy bite things could possibly be made other than in a great clunking factory somewhere in Greater Cheesistan. I'm going to give this a go soon as I have a kitchen where I can make a good old fashioned mess again.

'Course, for Graham, I'll have to keep back an empty box of the commercial things so's I can sneak the home-made ones into our lives... :-)

Dee said...

I know what you mean, John. We're too used to commercially prepared things, I think, forgetting our grannies did it quite well from scratch back in the day. Also, we tend to think it's easier to just buy a box of the stuff -- until we realize the homemade is a lot cheaper and surprisingly easy to do. And I'm pumping up the mojo for your new kitchen -- still.

Bonnie said...

Well that certainly sounds like something I could do when I get back to feeling normal.

Now you did mean take the dough off the silicone mat didn't you? I didn't know those could be put in an oven. :-)

Dee said...

Bonnie, if you look again at the top photo, you'll see the baked crackers are still on the mat. I should have made that clearer. There is the silicone *pastry* mat which cannot go in the oven but this is a silicone *baking* mat which takes the heat just fine and you don't have to use any oil or grease to keep food from sticking. That's why I suggested rolling the dough out right on the mat (or parchment paper). You don't have to transfer anything.

kate+jim said...

I know I'm late getting here, but this sounds like something I could really do! ha! I absolutely LOVE crackers. I could eat them over chips, any day.

I know what I'm having this weekend...