Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Crispy Sesame Crackers

Are you a savory person, or are you a sweet person?

Hey, I don’t mean your disposition, because surely you're as sweet as pie. . . And, no I don’t mean how you’d taste in the event of a zombie apocalypse, there’s zombie food blogs for that sort of thing. (Good blog idea, or best blog idea?) 

I mean, what’s the flavor you’d take in any form? Are you all about the gooey caramel? Yeasty sweet breads? Ripe, juicy fruit? Chocolate-covered anything?

Or do you crave roasted potatoes sprinkled with rosemary? Warm, buttery popcorn? Briny, tender olives? Are you salivating yet? Just me? Yeah, I’m definitely not a sweet person.

Yesterday, my mouth said, “Crunchy, please.”  I was all about the bite of fresh garlic, the warmth of nutty toasted sesame seeds and the crunch of big grains of sea salt. Yum to the max.

Oh. . . Did all that make you hungry? I’m sorry, but look, it’s all good. You can whip up these crisp, seedy crackers right out of your own kitchen with some pantry staples in no time at all. 

The best thing about a basic cracker recipe like this is that it’s totally customizable depending on your flavor needs for the moment. On their own, these crackers are crisp and sturdy, and pretty flavor-neutral. By that, I don’t mean that they lack flavor, I just mean that the flavors will get along with a ton of other flavors. They’ll make friends, hold hands, go off skipping into the sunset. It’s beautiful, trust me.

But say you need something a little more independent, a cracker that’ll stand up on its own for munching purposes. Done and done, pick your favorite spice combinations and add liberally. If you want, you could maybe add a little grated hard cheese, like parmesan or aged cheddar. . . Go ahead, I won’t tell anyone.

As they are, these crackers are nutritionally friendly, packed with heart-healthy sesame and whole wheat flour. With only of 3 tablespoons of oil to the whole batch, these crackers are perhaps a more health-conscientious choice than some of the similar products you can pick up at the store.

Oh. . . and like I was saying, they’re excellent dip-delivery devices.


But that’s a recipe for another day. 

Check after the jump for the recipe and a picture of my vintage pasta roller! 

Crispy Sesame Crackers
adapted from Alton Brown  

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 scant cup (or, a little less than one full cup) all purpose flour
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons of sesame oil*
About ¾ cup water
Sea salt or kosher salt
Optional: spices (I used garlic powder, dried oregano and black pepper) 

Preheat your oven to 450F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flours, sesame seeds, table salt and baking powder). Add the oil and stir to incorporate, then add the water and stir until a dough forms. If the dough is super sticky, add more flour half a tablespoon at a time.  If it’s super dry or won’t come together, dribble in more water half a tablespoon at a time. 

Dust a work surface with a little all purpose flour and dump the dough out onto it. Knead it a few times, until the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (illustrated above) and cover with a kitchen towel. Let the dough ‘rest’ for 10-15 minutes, which allows the gluten to relax to make for easier cracker rolling.

Rolling Option #1: Pasta machine method
The easiest way to create really thin crackers is to use a pasta rolling machine, like my super vintage machine inherited from Sparky’s grandmother, shown below. Flatten the pieces of dough into discs, and feed through the machine at the widest setting, gradually decreasing the settings until the dough is rolled to between 1/8th and 1/16th of an inch (the former for a thicker cracker, the latter for more crispy). Lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper** and use a sharp knife or a pizza roller to divide however you like.

Rolling Option #2: Rolling pin (or repurposed wine bottle) method
You can absolutely roll the crackers out by hand if you don’t have a pasta roller, too. Here’s the trick – flip a sheet pan over so that the bottom is upright and the pan is resting on its rims. Grease the back of the pan VERY VERY lightly. Now roll the dough out directly on the back of the sheet pan, working to get it as thin as you can. Be patient, the dough will probably try to spring back on you, but keep at it. If the dough is particularly elastic, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest a few minutes. Use a sharp knife or pizza roller to divide the dough into cracker shapes.

Once you have the dough rolled, sprinkle it lightly with a little sea salt or kosher salt, and bake 8-10 minutes in your 450F oven. Watch closely, baking times depend on how thin your dough is rolled.

Crackers keep in a ziplock back for up to two weeks. . . but good luck getting them to last that long.

*Sesame oil can usually be found in the Asian food section of the grocery store. If you can’t find any, substitute olive oil. 

 ** Parchment paper is a paper product that has been infused with silicone to create a disposable nonstick surface, and can be found in the baking aisle of the grocery store. Do not confuse parchment paper with wax paper! Wax paper is no good for oven-baked goods, unless you really enjoy the flavor of crayons.

1 comment:

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