July Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Crazy for Crackers

Blog Checking Lines: 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 us to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

I’ve always wanted to have a good, crispy cracker recipe that I could bring to potlucks and serve with soups in the winter, so I was thrilled when crackers were announced as this month’s challenge.  Crackers turned out to be a snap to make at home and easy to flavor to suit your own tastes or to compliment a meal.    Making them at home allows you to have a tastier cracker and one that doesn’t have any preservatives.  You can also use different flours if allergies are an issue.  The shelf life of a homemade cracker is naturally shorter than that of a store bought one, but I found that homemade crackers are eaten so quickly that staleness isn’t a problem.    I must confess that I ate a whole pan of seedy crackers for lunch the day I made them because they were so very addictive!

Crackers can be made in a variety of ways.  The dough can be whipped up in a food processor, a mixer or by hand in a bowl.  The dough can be rolled out by hand, rolled through a pasta machine, sliced from refrigerated logs, cut into shapes with fancy cutters or broken into pieces after baking.  Your imagination is the limit!

For this challenge, we were required to make two different cracker recipes using two different methods of forming.  Hand rolling and pasta rollers, pasta rollers and icebox, or hand rolling and ice box, etc.    We were given some great recipes for Health Crackers, Seedy Crisps, and Icebox Cheese Crackers.  I chose to use hand rolled and icebox crackers as my methods.  It was so much fun that I got a little carried away this month and actually made 4 cracker recipes instead of two – Seedy Crisps, Wheat Thins (from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book) and two different kinds of icebox cheddar crackers: cheddar with chile and cocoa nibs and aged white cheddar with thyme and cracked black pepper.  They were all good, but I had an especially liked the Seedy Crisps, a super crunchy whole wheat cracker filled with poppy and sesame seeds.  I found this recipe was also a good way to use up some of my “discard” sourdough starter.   The wheat thins and cheese crackers were the most popular with everyone else that ate them.  I guess the bottom line is that everyone loves homemade crackers!

Wheat Thins

White Cheddar with pecans, thyme and cracked pepper

Cheddar with chile and cocoa nibs

Seedy Crisps (roll with pasta rollers or by hand)

1 cup (140g / 5oz) whole wheat flour
1 cup (140 gm / 5 oz) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (50 gm / 1.75oz ) poppy seeds
1/3 cup (40 gm / 1.25 oz) sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. (6.5 fl oz) water

  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. Knead the dough 5 or 6 times and allow rest, covered, on the counter for 15 minutes.  You can also chill the dough at this point.
  5. Preheat the oven to 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 or roll out in your pasta rolers.  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 7 minutes, flip them over and bake for 7 minutes more.  If they are thin, check them at 4-5 minutes a side.  Then cut or break the sheets into cracker-sized pieces 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.

Notes:  This is a great recipe for using up your discarded sourdough starter when feeding it.  I use a 100% saturation whole wheat starter, so I weigh the discarded portion of starter and subtract half that volume of water and flour from the original ingredients and add the starter with the liquids in the recipe.

Makes approximately 50 crackers, depending on how thick or thin the sheets are.

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

1/2 cup (1 stick/115 gm / 4 oz) unsalted butter, well softened
2 1/4 cups (225 gm / 8 oz) grated aged cheddar cheese (the better the cheese, the better the cracker) firmly packed
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp. (190 gm / 6 oz) all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (60 gm / 2 oz) finely chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary

  1. Combine the butter, rosemary and cheese in a stand mixer and beat well (can 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 and hour and up to several days.  The log can be frozen at this point for several months.
  5. Heat the oven to 325°F / 160°C / gas mark 3.
  6. Slice a log into 5mm 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 3 days.

Try this recipe with different cheeses, nuts, spices and herbs!

Makes approximately 48 crackers.

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