I’ve been feeling ambitious in the kitchen lately. Well, not today. But I was last week. So when I made some pate (I’ll post about that later), I decided to try making some homemade crackers to go with it. I looked up several recipes, decided on a strategy, and headed into the kitchen.
Ambition only goes so far, though. I had been planning to make crackers with butter, which I was going to cut in with my food processor (a technique that I also use for scones). But the food processor was in the dishwasher, with pate still clinging to it. And washing it before making crackers was one step more than I had patience for.
I looked again at the recipes I was using as guides, and noticed that solid fat was not a necessity. Oil was listed in more than one. It sounded pretty tasty, actually, and even easier than my original plan. Looking around the kitchen for inspiration, I decided to use a little white whole wheat flour for some depth and whole-grain nutrition, sesame seeds for flavor, and half-and-half for the dairy richness I wasn’t getting from butter.
Feel free to experiment with every element of these crackers: flour, fat, liquid, flavorings, shape. Most liquids are thinner than half-and-half though, so if you use something like milk or wine, start with a bit less. As long as you don’t overwork the dough too much, these seem very forgiving – rolling them thin was no problem – and infinitely adaptable.
Beauty queens they are not. These crackers are hardy little workhorses, tasty by themselves but really more suited to a supporting role with cheeses or spreads. They accepted heavy spoonfuls of pate without a crack.
Don’t fuss too much about ragged edges, uneven thickness, or random size. Honestly, you don’t want these to look like crackers from a box. If I go to the effort to make homemade crackers, I want everyone to know it at a glance! In any case, some shagginess adds immeasurably to their charm.
Simple Olive Oil Crackers
Makes 2 to 3 dozen
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup wheat, rye or other flour or more all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (1/4 teaspoon regular)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds and/or other flavorings
1/4 cup flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 10 tablespoons half-and-half
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium to large bowl, combine the flour(s), salt, sesame seeds, and other flavorings as desired. Pour in the olive oil and blend with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the half-and-half, starting with the smallest amount and adding more until the cracker dough can be formed into a cohesive ball.
Transfer the ball to a floured board and roll out with a floured rolling pin (you can substitute a wine bottle) to about 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch. Prick the dough all over with a fork to release steam, then cut into squares – a wheeled pizza cutter works great for this – or whatever shape strikes your fancy. Note, though, that you don’t want to scrape up and reroll the dough more than once or the crackers will be tough.
Transfer the crackers to a lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. (A large, flat spatula speeds this.) Baking time will vary depending on the wetness of your dough and the thickness of your crackers, but will likely be 20 to 25 minutes. Start checking the crackers at 15 minutes, and remove from the oven when the edges start to brown and the tops turn golden. Transfer to a rack or paper (my mother always used newspaper for cooling cookies) to cool. They may not seem crisp, but should crisp as they cool, which they will do quickly.
Enjoy with cheese, pate, fruit, or all by their crunchy little selves.
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