Med school hasn’t made me crackers yet, at least not before I could make crackers. Har Har! I crack myself up… no pun intended (yeah right!)
Enough with the cheese, on with the baking!
I never thought making crackers could be so easy, and so delicious! I was a little intimidated by this month’s Daring Baker Challenge, but one evening when I wasn’t so inclined to open my books I thought I’d give it a shot. The ingredients were simple:
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 Tb sugar
1 Tb vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup water, at room temperature
Mix all together, adding enough water to bring the dry ingredients into a ball and knead.
The kneading, not so simple. My roommate and I took turns taking out our aggressions on the dough, and giving our hands a workout! The recipe says knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough passes the windowpane test: stretch a piece of dough thin enough so you can see light through it, but if it tears you need to keep kneading. I was kneading for 20 minutes. Then the dough sat for an hour in an oiled bowl set in a warmed oven and then I got to rolling. This recipe specified for one sheet of crackers, but I decided to cut the dough in half for some super thin crackers.
You need to roll the dough on an oiled surface. It sticks a little more, which helps to combat the elasticity of the dough. Floured surfaces do not work. I was surprised how easy it was to roll out. I thought I’d have to let the dough rest frequently, but it wasn’t a problem… until I baked it and found how unevenly I had rolled my dough. The dough bakes on parchment paper at 350 for 10-20 minutes, depending on how thin it is. Areas of my crackers got quite brown while other parts never quite cooked enough for a true cracker crunch. I let them finish up on the pan for 10 minutes out of the oven before I started breaking them apart. Despite variable textures, they were very tasty with the sesame seeds I sprinkled on top. You only see a few in the pictures because sesame seeds don’t like to stick. I later found suggestions on the Daring Baker forum that you really need to roll the sesame seeds into the dough to get them to stay. Before baking I scored them with a pizza cutter for easy separation.
The crackers were accompanied with a White Bean and Sage dip (vegan and gluten free as directed).
Full directions from Natalie of Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl:
Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers [I made two sheet pans]
* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings
[Sesame for me!]
1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).
4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.
6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough). [After 11 minutes the thin areas were pretty brown.]
7. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.