Saturday, July 28, 2012

Daring Bakers - Crackers

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 to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love. 

Whew! I made it before the end of July. I know Daring Bakers posts usually happen on the 27th of the month but I'm feeling pretty good about getting this challenge done and posted while still in the month of July. 

This summer has been crazy busy for us. Basically the day after school got out for me we have been going, going, going. I didn't end up doing the June challenge and I thought I might not have time to make this one either but it turned out to be surprisingly easy. Sometimes just thinking about what the techniques are (especially if it is something new for me) and then what flavors to do take more effort than the actual act of making the item.Enough of the explanation on tardiness and on to the challenge. 

This month we had to make homemade crackers using two different techniques. I'm sure there are other methods, but the three presented to us were hand shaping, using a pasta roller, or shaping into a log and slicing into coins. I don't have a pasta roller so I decided to make one batch hand shaped and another batch using the sliced icebox method.

Let's chat about the first batch, shall we. I decided to make the Health Crackers. I had just about everything necessary and they seemed to be easy enough to do. I did end up switching out ground flax seeds for the wheat germ since I don't usually have wheat germ on hand but plenty of ground flax. They came together quickly and I was planning to stick them in the fridge for their 20 minute rest until I realized it was almost 10 o'clock at night. I guess time got away from me, so I decided to leave it in the fridge over night and come back to it in the morning.

I did decide to get the second batch made and refrigerated as well. For that batch I decided to use one cup of cheddar cheese and one cup of Masdammer (similar to Swiss) which we picked up at a local dairy while out on our latest bike adventure. I used almonds instead of the walnuts suggested since my walnuts were old and yucky tasting. I again refrigerated them over night.

The next day I pulled out both batches of dough. The Health Crackers were not super pliable. They have to stay cold otherwise they stick but they don't stay together well if they are cold. Kind of a catch 22. I rolled out one quarter, brushed on the egg wash and then sprinkled with sesame seeds and coarse salt. They cut easily with a pizza cutter and they took about 30 minutes to brown up in the oven.

The Cheddar, Almond, and Rosemary were easy to slice but they took much longer in the oven than the recipe stated. My crackers took about 20 minutes to bake but they were nice and crisp at the end of it. They break apart easily though so be careful where you eat these if you are worried about crumbs. Enjoy! 

Health Crackers
3 cups rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat germ (I used ground flax seeds)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 large egg white
Cracker topping:
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nigella (onion) seeds, salt
Salt for sprinkling

Mix the oats, flour, wheat germ, sugar and salt together in a large bowl or bowl for the standup mixer.

Combine the water and oil and stir into the oat mixture until it comes together and a dough forms.

Form dough into a disk and allow to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes but up to a day if you are making them ahead.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Divide the dough into quarters and work with one piece at a time, allowing the remaining pieces to stay in the fridge as you proceed with rolling out the crackers.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/16 inch thick and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet by carefully wrapping the dough around the rolling pin.

Brush the dough with the egg white mixed briefly with a tablespoon of water and sprinkle with seeds and salt of your choice.
Cut the dough with a pizza wheel and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned. Crackers that are not crispy once cooled may be returned to the oven.

Store in an airtight container and eat within two weeks.

Cheddar, Almond, and Rosemary Crackers
1/2 cup butter, well softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
2 1/4 cups grated aged cheddar cheese, firmly packed
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Combine butter, rosemary, and cheese in a stand mixer and beat well (can also be done by hand). Add the flour, salt, and nuts and stir to combine. 

Form the dough into two tight logs and wrap with cling film. Chill for at least an hour and up to several days. (The log can be frozen at this point for several months.)

Heat the oven to 325°F. Slice a log into 1/5 inch coins and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown. (Mine took 20 minutes to get brown.)

Store in an airtight container and eat within three days.