Introduction: 1,2,3...Series: Crackers
The '1,2,3..Series' shows simple products that seem more complicated than they are. I make them with general guidelines rather than a recipe... for some this will never work... for others it removes hurdles and makes it easier to cook!
There really is no way to mess up crackers, like most dishes, except to burn them. Worst thing that can happen is you get a different kind of cracker. Hope you enjoy and now find it easier to make crackers!
--consider sharing if you find my approach useful or know someone who might
Step 1: Ingredients
Really anything can go in crackers. Below are the basic ingredients and tips for modifying recipes.
- Grain (Flour)
- Fat (oil/shortening)
- Spices (salt)
The crackers in this instructable use: Flour, Cornmeal, Chia Seeds, Water, Shortening, Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Cumin.
- Below I walk through considerations for each ingredient.
- In the steps I'll review the proportions.
1 - GRAIN OPTIONS
- Flour - white flour is the standard. If you choose to use whole wheat use at least a 50/50 mix with white flour for your first batch. If you buy in bulk (stick with walmart or costco over amazon) you can expect a cost of .10-20 cents per batch
- Cornmeal - we love cornmeal and find ways to fit it into everything. I use roughly 1/3 the amount as I do the flour. Again, in bulk .10-20 cents per batch
- Chia Seeds - The seeds can be added to make the crackers as dense as you like. I typically add 1/8 = 1/5 the amount of the flour. About a scoop! (bulk)
- Flax Seeds - Great in omega 3. easy to use the pre-roasted or raw seeds.
- Sesame Seeds - Sesame is a favorite (bulk). The key to great sesame sticks is adding cumin.
3 - FAT OPTIONS
- Shortening - for a standard size batch I add one heaping spoonful. It's an easy rule. The more you add the more flaky and buttery they are. (my local grocery only sells during the holidays! here on amazon)
- Vegetable Oil - A good pour works well
- Butter - A hunk. Same as shortening and probably a bit better... I never want to use good butter on crackers.
- Peanut Butter - A small spoonful and you won't notice the peanut flavor. I typically add with the shortening. For full flavor use only peanut butter for your fat.
- Sesame Oil - I've never actually used full sesame oil. I value the oil too much to put it into the crackers. --Kadoya is what we have and I won't spare for crackers
4 - SPICES
- Salt - there is no magical baking reason you need salt... it just brings out the flavor of everything
- Garlic Powder - Great in the dough or added on top before baking
- Onion Powder - I think the flavor gets lost but always add it
- Red Pepper Flakes - save a pack from pizza... that's about the right amount. flavor bakes into the dough.
- Cumin - use the ground cumin... I keep adding more as I adjust the recipe.
- Chili Powder - typically I add a dash before baking
- Oregano - add this to the dough. the flavor bakes into the crackers.
Total Cost... I started pricing out the individual items but the math is pretty simple... it's around 10-20 cents per ingredient. That means it costs about 30-50 cents to make a box of crackers...
Photos show... the ingredients laid out and how I store them on my shelves. I use the open shelves as a reminder to incorporate ingredients when not referring to a recipe.
Step 2: Combine Ingredients
Whether using a mixer or incorporating by hand the steps are the same.
- Fat - big spoonful (more... less... that works too)
- Grain - 1-2 cups flour, 0-1 cup all other grains. aim for a total of 2 cups.
- Spices - to taste...easy to start mild for a first batch. Unless there's a reason to be salt free you'll want to add the amount you'd use to salt onions in a pan :)
- Water - mix all ingredients first before adding the water. Amount noted in next step.
In the photos: I'm trying to show how I eyeball ingredients. Some I use shakers. For others I use measuring cups. For the shortening I simply scoop.
Note: In no way do you need a mixer. Our kitchenaid was a gift my gf received from her cousin when she got a new one as a wedding present.
Step 3: Mixing
Mixing Goal: The goal while mixing isn't to get the mix perfect. You want to incorporate the ingredients and have a workable dough (workable dough = not overly dry/not overly wet)
How much water? Add water while mixing. Say 1/3-1/2 of the amount of dry ingredients... but really it's about getting the dough consistency right. I add the water gradually try to get the dough so it's a little tacky (wet on your fingers as you press into the dough). From there I can always add a bit more flour or cornmeal.
In the photos: I've tried to show how the dough becomes more clumpy before forming into a dough... it's a progression that you start to recognize.
Step 4: Working the Dough
The goal here is to get the consistency right...
What is the right dough consistency? The way I approach it is that after mixing the dough is tacky (wet as you press into the dough). If it doesn't feel a bit wet, even when you're done, it's too dry. The idea is to kneed it out and work in a bit more flout and cornmeal till it feels right. I generally want it to be only lightly tacky. I consider the dough wet if it makes the surface of the table or cutting board wet.
Cutting Board - not necessary but I like an oversized plastic cutting board. Makes for easier cleanup.
Step 5: More Ingredients...
Step 6: Storage + Resting
Easy to store dough for a few days... I typically make a double batch which allows me to safe come for baking a day or two out.
Resting... you do want to let the dough rest for 30min in the fridge. Not 100% necessary but it will make it easier to roll out
Step 7: Shaping + Baking
Here's how I do it...
- Roll the dough to a thin consistency... thinner are generally crispier
- Cut to shape -any size/shape (mine are approx 1/2"x6"x<1/8")
- Place on sheet pan
When placing on the sheet pan (nordic aluminum pan) it doesn't matter if they touch though best to not overlap so that they cook evenly. I roll the crackers... this creates a certain look. More importantly... it makes for better airflow around the crackers so they bake faster.
Baking... for my oven it's 365 and tends to take 30-40 min for the rolled crackers. I like the more well done. Try this temp to start but anywhere between 350-375 will work fine. You'll just have to watch them till you know your oven.
Parchment paper isn't necessary but it makes it easier to clean up and you never have to worry about sticking. I also reuse the parchment until it wears through... typically 4-8 uses. (kirkland pack)
Step 8: Finished
Crackers are ready to eat right out of the oven! Ours don't last long.
Storage.. is simple. After the crackers have cooled just keep them in an airtight container. I expect them to last 4-7 days. If you want them to last longer add a preservative like citric acid (see my instructable on ca)
Thank you for reading! I hope this helps you feel comfortable making crackers if you haven't already. For years I thought there was a magic behind crackers. Even as I regularly made bread. There is no mystery. Get's even more fun once you start adding seasoning and cheese!
My first in the 1,2,3..Series is on making Pasta: instructables.com/id/123-Pasta/
My shelves are shown here: instructables.com/id/Swiss-Army-Shelves/
Thanks again, Jeff
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