Blog, Recipes, Snacks & Sides

Not Your Average Crackers

Houseguests last summer arrived laden with gifts:  home-made jams (they’re jam junkies), books, fresh-picked fruit from a farm close to their Vermont home, and huge tins of home-made…um…crackers…

I have to admit, the last part left me a little less excited.  Never really been a particularly keen cracker-eater.  Always preferred my carbs in bread or cookie form, it must be said.  Good scones, too.

But then we politely tasted the crackers.  And of course, we should have known (not just because we love these friends and they are amazing cooks), but also because isn’t home-made just always going to be BETTER??  Isn’t that just the rule?? These crackers were so delicious, and so packed with good-for-you stuff, it really was a revelation.

And of course, I wanted to make them myself now.  And I wanted mine to be better than theirs.  Of course.

Just before summer hit, I had collected a copy of a new cookbook, hoping to have some time to play with it before I got too busy, which of course I didn’t.  But I remembered seeing pictures of crackers in this book.  And I remembered how uninterested in them I had been compared with all of the other delicious things.  And I realized that this book was probably going to be the perfect place to start my mission to out-cracker my friend.  And it was. 20160226_140032

I have recounted my journey to gluten-free baking here and will only say that the first reason why I love this cookbook so much is that it doesn’t claim to be a gluten-free baking book, even though that’s exactly what it is.  But, unlike many of the books and blogs and magazines which have lots of not-very-good stuff in them, “Flavor Flours” is by Alice Medrich, an acclaimed and experienced baker and cookbook author.  She’s absolutely fabulous.  And she’s written the book that we’ve been waiting for:  a gluten-free baking book which focuses on FLAVOR!  Alice Medrich is a skilled technician, and all of the recipes in this book work beautifully, but they’re also delicious in a way that gluten-free goods made with blends of rice flours and starches aren’t: the flours impart distinctive and yummy flavors that take everything to the next level.

Now, onto the crackers.  Alice Medrich has a few recipes for crackers in the book, since each chapter focuses on a different flour, and I started with her “Seed Crackers” since they were the most similar to the crackers that my friend had made.  The list of ingredients may be a little bit daunting, so I apologize for that.  If you’re into gluten-free baking, then you may already have a few of them around.  All of these ingredients are now readily-available, if that’s some comfort, and also if you would allow me to take this moment to once again recount the benefits of baking with a gram-scale (trust-me, it makes baking quicker, cleaner, more accurrate and more fun!  for $25!), that will make it less annoying to handle all of these ingredients, trust me.  I just bring the gram scale and the Kitchen Aid bowl right over to the counter in front of where I store all of the stuff and start throwing things into it.  Doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes, I swear!

And did I mention that this copious list of ingredients happens to be comprised of tons of nutritious things?  And that they’re dairy-free?  And that they’re absolutely addictive?  And finally, it really makes a lot, so at least you’ll be rewarded for your efforts for a longer-than-usual time after baking something delicious. Give them a try and let me know if they make you into a cracker-convert, too.

Garlic & Paprika Seed Crackers

Preheat oven to 400F

Measure into a mixing bowl:

1/2 c  (80 g) brown rice flour

1/2 c (80 g) white rice flour

1/3 c (40 g) oat flour

2/3 c (80 g) cornmeal

1/2 c (65 g) sunflower seeds

1/4 c (35 g) sesame seeds

1/3 c (40 g) flaxseed meal

2 T (25 g) brown sugar

1 1/2 t (8g) salt

3/4 c water

2 t rice vinegar

1 t (5g) baking powder

1/4 c plain oil

4 cloves crushed garlic

2 t sweet paprika

Mix everything together for about 3 minutes with a flat beater or spatula until thoroughly combined.  The dough is soft, but not particularly sticky.  The best way to work with it is to roll it between two pieces of baking parchment.  That way you can get them fairly thin and even.  I use an ice-cream scoop to portion out similar-sized lumps of the mix onto the parchment.  Cover with another piece of parchment and then roll out with a rolling pin, until you have long ovals (you do need to flip over and peel away the parchment from time to time, so that it doesn’t impede the rolling out of the crackers). You can always dust them with a bit of rice flour, too, to help, if you’re not comfortable with the softness of the dough.  Just play with it a bit and you’ll see, it’s very forgiving and you can patch it back together if it does tear.  Then I like to just peel away the top piece of parchment and flip the parchment and cracker-dough together onto a baking sheet so that the dough is touching the metal (they toast better this way, rather than baking them on the parchment).  Bake for about 5 to 6 minutes, then check on them and remove the parchment.  You can flip the crackers over to toast the other side, and bake for another 3-4 minutes, until well-browned.  Let cook completely and enjoy!