Friday, June 4, 2010
Crackers from scratch
I have been meaning to try my buddy Muddy's flatbread (either this one or this one or the non-flat one here, doesn't really matter which) for quite some time now, so will have to make that a priority this summer.
But there was another crazy-easy flour-based snack food that has been on the backburner for ages as well. About five minutes of prep and 12 minutes in the oven, so it had my name written all over it.
Yep, crackers. Those cheap little snacks you get in a box for $2 at the grocery store. Why in the world would anyone make their crackers?
Well, because it's easy, for one. Because you know exactly what's in them, for two. (No partially hydrogenated soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable monoglycerides, monosodium glutamate, or yellow dye #5, for instance.) And because they do taste a ton better when you know that they were in your very own oven just minutes ago.
And maybe mostly because this is another one of those recipes where there are 1-2 things you have to do, and then everything else is optional.
Here's what you have to do: Mix flour with a little liquid, roll it out, and bake it.
Here's what else you can do: Add butter, milk, cream, cheese, salt, spices, herbs, etc. Use whole wheat flour, or mix in some rye or other whole grains. Roll it thick or thin. Piece the dough with your fork to let out steam for a crisper cracker, or don't for a more tender one.
I went with the first version I ever saw, Parmesan Cream Crackers from Mark Bittman.
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus some for dusting your rolling surface
1/2 tsp salt
a heaping 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 Tbs butter
about 1/4 cup milk, half-and-half, or cream (have a little bit more on hand just in case)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the oven to 400º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix everything but the liquid in a food processor and pulse until it is uniformly combined.
Pour in half of your quarter-cup of cream while running the processor on the lowest setting. Then slowly add the rest, just a little bit at a time, just until the dough holds together.
Now for the best part. What you basically have now is cheesy pastry dough, but unlike a pie shell, you don't have to be careful about overworking this dough. It's just a cracker, so you can work it over pretty good.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it's around a quarter-inch thick. Common sense here: thicker means a more tender cracker, thinner means crispier. Then slide the dough onto your baking sheet.
If you score it with a knife or pizza cutter (I used a faux-Ulu, the Wüstof weigemesser mincing knife), then you'll have nice square crackers that break off easily when you're done. You can also prick the dough with a fork, 2-4 times per square, to release some steam for a crisper cracker. (The first time you try this, maybe prick half and don't prick the other, and see which side you prefer.)
Finally, sprinkle with salt and any other spice you want, such as freshly ground black pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes. (Again, maybe sprinkle something different on a couple of different sections the first time out.)
Bake for 10-12 minutes, then cool on a rack.
These will most certainly satisfy any hankering for a hunk of cheese.
(Hat tip to One Ordinary Day for the pro-fromaggio PSA.)