July 27, 2012
Homemade Crackers: Wheat Thins & Oyster Crackers
Crackers are not something I find myself craving often. I will sneak a goldfish or two from my son's highchair tray on occasion, or snarf down a couple of Triscuits at a party, but that's about it.
And so, when the Daring Baker Challenge for July was crackers, I wasn't that thrilled.
But my hubby does like Wheat Thins, so I thought it would be a fun way to make something he would really enjoy.
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.
And here's what I learned: crackers are really not hard to make. At all. A bit labor-intensive, yes, but not at all difficult. Think roll-out cookies, only thinner and savory.
In the interest of full disclosure, the challenge was to make two different kinds of crackers using two different methods. I will admit, these are both roll-out crackers. I had intended to make some Parmesan Thyme refrigerator crackers, but I just ran out of time and energy. So... there you go. Perhaps someday soon I will make them up for you. But to make up for it, I did make two different kinds of crackers all the same. And they are both awesome!
Far and away my favorite part of cracker making was using the end of a pastry tip to cut tiny rounds for homemade oyster crackers. I thought it might be tedious, but it was so fun! Somethings about small things makes them so much more awesome. True for humans, true for crackers. :D
My second favorite aspect of cracker making is that I had all the ingredients for these on hand. I could make these any time I wanted! It was quick, too. And the doughs were both really, really easy to work with. So the next time you want to make something new and fun, give crackers a try. You could easily make these with kids, who will love cutting out fun shapes, and you won't have to wait for them to come down from the sugar the way you would with making sugar cookies. Bonus!
Homemade Wheat Thins
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for topping
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup water (you might need to add a little more)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
Add the flour, sugar, salt and paprika to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl. Using a pastry blender (I used my hands), mix the butter into the dry ingredients thoroughly. The mixture should resemble sand. Combine the water and vanilla in a small measuring cup or bowl. Add to the butter/flour mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms. If the dough is still dry, add a little more water.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered with a towel so they don't dry out. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle. Lift the dough and turn it as you roll to ensure it's not sticking. You want to roll the dough as thin as possible, try to make sure it's 1/16-inch thick at most. If you want all of your crackers to be perfect, trim the edges of the dough so you have a rectangle with even sides. Use a pizza cutter to cut the rectangle into squares about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide. Or do as I'm doing and use small cookie cutters of your choice.
Transfer the cut dough to the prepared baking sheets. You can place them close together because they will not spread. Sprinkle the squares lightly with salt. Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. Save all of your scraps under the towel to keep the dough from drying out; reroll them all at once to create a final batch of crackers.
Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, until crisp and browned, about 5-10 minutes. Check the crackers at 5 minutes, and if some of the thinner ones are browning too quickly, remove them from the oven. The crackers can burn quickly so you want to keep a close eye on them. Remove crackers from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Store the crackers in an airtight container.
Homemade Oyster Crackers
2 ¼ c. flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 Tbsp. cool water
¾ c. cold milk
Blend (or mix by hand very well) in a food processor flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Dissolve yeast in cool water (it will make a paste) and mix in with milk. Pour milk into processor and mix together. Let sit for a few minutes, then roll out onto parchment paper and stamp out small circles or hexagons. I used the bottom of a pastry tip, dipping it in flour every few stamps to prevent sticking. Peel away the trimmings carefully, leaving your little circles on the parchment, then place the parchment on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 9-12 minutes, shaking about halfway through so that all crackers have a chance to brown on both sides.