Friday, January 29, 2010

Homemade crackers

Last fall hubby and I splurged and went to a bed and breakfast in Stillwater, MN. It was called The Elephant Walk B&B, and it was very nice. The best thing about it was the plate of goodies inside your room when you arrived -- various yummy artisan cheeses, grapes, pistachios, apples, and delicious homemade crackers.

Those crackers were so good, I asked the innkeeper for the recipe, and she happily obliged. I grabbed a piece of paper out of my purse and scribbled down the directions as she talked. I thought I had it all down. As you'll see below, I was wrong.

Tonight I decided to make the crackers. We're having company this weekend, and I thought the crackers would be nice to serve for an afternoon snack. The recipe started off with 'make a stiff bread dough.' So I made a white bread dough, and let my six-year-old help with the kneading. He took great delight in pounding the dough as hard as he could with his little fists.

It was here that I realized I was missing a vital piece of information. Do I let the dough rise, or not? I thought about it for awhile, and figured that since I was told to use a bread dough, then I should follow through with bread dough basics, and let it rise. So, I did.

After that step, my recipe said, 'using a pasta machine, roll it thick first and then as thin as you can.' So I did, and spread the pieces over my kitchen table. I only rolled a third of the dough, as my table could only hold that many pieces at once.

Then my recipe said, 'Place on parchment paper, on a cookie sheet. Brush with egg whites and sprinkle sesame seeds over top. ' So I did.

Then, 'bake in a 425 oven for a few minutes until lightly browned.' So, I did.

Whoa! Wait! What's going on here? What are those big air bubbles doing in my crackers? There aren't supposed to be any air bubbles! The B&B crackers were lovely and flat and evenly browned. If I get air bubbles, the crackers will puff up and the tops of the bubbles will get burned before the flat parts get browned.

Which is exactly what happened. Rats. What do I do now? I can't 'unrise' the dough. Too late for that. I still had a bunch of dough left, and I didn't want to start over. The only thing I could think of was to beat and flatten and punch the dough to within an inch of its life. Then use a rolling pin and flatten it some more. Then send it through the pasta roller. So, that's what I did.

The resulting crackers were a lot better. I also reduced the heat to 350, which helped even out the browning. Only a few smaller air bubbles. Not as good as the B&B's, but good enough to serve to guests. Note to self: don't let the dough rise!

I went to the grocery store today looking for some artisan cheeses to serve with the crackers, but was sorely disappointed. There was about thirty different brands and varieties of cheddar, Colby, hard mozzarella and Monterrey Jack. In desperation I bought the only non-block cheese I could find -- some soft Swiss and Edam. Never had Edam before, so we'll see what that tastes like.

Maybe if I have time tomorrow I'll whip up a batch of fresh mozzarella before our company arrives around lunchtime. Right after I help hubby clean the house, bake a birthday cake, make deviled eggs, plan party games, take care of the livestock, and do a bunch of laundry.

Yeah, right!


Erin said...

They look fantastic! My hubby is the "bread man" around here, I bet he will want to try it. Personally, bread dough and anything with yeast scares me, I guess I just don't understand the process well enough. Of course, I have never had to since hubby loves doing it. Bread, soft pretzels, grilled pizzas, he loves it all so now he can try something new!

Mama Pea said...

I used to make crackers quite a bit. My problem was keeping them crisp. No matter how I stored them, they always seemed to get soft and limp. Made me wonder if commercial crackers have a lot of some awful chemical in them to maintain the crispness! But I never tried any with yeast in them or by starting with bread dough. Your second batch looks wonderful.

Good luck this morning doing a full weekend's work before noon! [We keep tryin', don't we? ;o)]

Frustrated Farmer Rick said...

I think they look great Jo! I am wondering if you docked the heck out of them it might help keep the bubbles smallish. I like the idea of using the pasta roller to make the dough thin.

Lucky Lizard Ranch said...

Yummy! They are beautiful Jo! Even with air bubbles! I think I'll try making some this weekend, maybe with garlic. Thanks for sharing the recipe and tips!

Maple Lawn Farm said...

What a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing the recipe and the wonderful pictures! I will have to try them sometime!

BTW: Thank you so much for the seeds! Mine arrived yesterday!


Karen Sue said...

I think if they tasted good, no one will really care if they are even colored.. and you were the ones who saw the B&B ones, not your guests. As far as they know, they look exactly like they are supposed to. I'm sure they were fine and now you can tweak them a bit to get your desired affect.

Jessika said...

Oh,they are beautiful! I'm inspired to make some too!
I bet a nice fromage blanc would be delicious with those.

Thistledog said...

Homemade crackers are the bomb. I use a whole-grain recipe I clipped from a King Arthur Flour catalog, and grind my own white-wheat flour. It calls for pressing in flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds, then pricking the entire surface all over with a fork. I believe that keeps the pieces from bubbling up like you mentioned.

And your seeds are here! I love the little envelopes and that you took the time and effort to label them like you did - thank you so much! They motivate me to get back out and work on terracing the garden beds so I can plant them ALL come Spring...

Belle said...

Hi Jo,
How do I follow you? There is not a option for that on your page


I Just Live Here said...

When I make crackers I use a cup of flour around a quarter cup of water and two tablespoons of olive oil. The dough should hold together but not be sticky. I throw in the spice I want normally some chipotle and dry onion. I roll it very thinly on a cookie sheet bake at 450 for about 20 minutes ... no bubbles and nice and crisp

Jo said...

Hi Erin -- lucky you, having a hubby who loves baking!

Hello Mama Pea -- These crackers stayed crisp as long as they lasted before we ate them all, which was about five days! My brother brought me some Brie cheese, and they were sooooo good.

Hi Rick! Thanks. Forgive my ignorance -- what does 'dock' mean? Yes, the pasta roller helped a lot. I'd have hated to do all that by hand!

Hey Liz! The air bubble ones tasted just as good as the flat ones, they just looked irregular. Garlic -- I'll have to try that too next time.

Hi Tammy -- Glad I could reciprocate, when you've shared so many of your great recipes!

Hello Karen -- Thanks for the vote of confidence. I will have to do some tweaking with them in the future!

Howdy Jessika! Fromage blanc would be wonderful. Got any you can send me? ;)

Hi Thistledog -- I've heard the King Arthur Flour catalog is really good. I'll have to get myself one of those. And you're very welcome for the seeds! I look forward to reading about your garden this year on your blog.

Hello Belle -- I don't have a followers gadget on my blog, so if you want to follow me (thanks, by the way!) you'll have to manage it from the reading list on your blogger dashboard. Here's a link with more info:
Hope this helps.

Hi ManFort -- Good to hear from you! This is my first cracker experiment. I'll have to try your recipe sometime. Such a burden, more baking!

Karen said...

Hi! I have absolutely nothing of note to add to your cracker baking experiment. I have never baked crackers (or bread for that matter) and have no idea whether you should have let it rise, rolled it through a pasta maker, or just pricked it with a fork!!! I am happy in my ignorance! But, I can tell you all of the ingredients in OG's stuffed chicken marsala!!!

Kathy said...

Aw, what a good little helper Graham is! He looks like he misses me. You should bring him over.