Monday, September 14, 2009

The Final Frontier: Homemade Crackers

I don't know about the rest of you experienced home bakers, but this girl has never been interested in making crackers from scratch...until today. I have made them before--once--and decided it wasn't worth the time and effort.

However, now I have three young kids who can scarf down an entire box of crackers in one sitting if I let them. We also are interested in slashing our grocery budget, and crackers are one of the few processed items we still buy A LOT. So, I decided it was worth a try.

Enter The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn: her whole wheat cracker recipe solved one of my biggest issues. Instead of rolling the dough out paper thin on a cutting board and then somehow transferring it to a cookie sheet without it breaking, she recommended rolling the dough out ON THE COOKIE SHEET. Why didn't I think of that before? This simple step eliminated much of my previous aversion to cracker making. I tried a batch of her crackers today (she also pointed out much cheaper they were than the "real thing" and how her recipe made double the weight of a storebought box--meaning my little crew would not demolish this recipe in one sitting).

Verdict? Definitely worth your time. If you've ever made bread before, you must try these crackers. They're easier than bread and faster since there's no rising time involved. The process actually reminded me of making biscuits or scones, except that the result is a LOT more crackers than the 8-10 biscuits/scones I usually make. What better thing to whip up for a simple soup dinner? They taste wonderful and are more filling somehow than storebought crackers. I'm now on the lookout for other cracker recipes to try, planning to roll them all out on the cookie sheet instead of trying to transfer dough. The recipe from Dacyczyn tastes a lot like Wheat Thins--sweet and salty and "wheat-y." I think there's a bigger return on my time in cracker making than in bread baking; crackers tend to be much more expensive than a loaf of bread, but the ingredients for homemade are virtually the same as most of my bread recipes. So, I'll save more money than making my own bread would save me (and I don't have to stick around the house for the bread to bake).

Whole Wheat Crackers

  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c. white flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 3/4 c. buttermilk (or soured milk)
  • 1/4 c. wheat germ (or maybe a little more)

Sift first five ingredients together. Add the butter and either process in food processor or cut in with pastry blender (like making biscuits). Add the buttermilk and process until it forms a ball (or stir with wooden spoon until it forms a ball). Set it aside for 10 minutes. Cut the dough into four parts. Grease cookie sheets and sprinkle them with wheat germ. Roll each dough piece out on a cookie sheet (flouring roller as necessary). Roll them as thin as you can; they will puff slightly in the oven. Sprinkle with salt. Cut into diamonds or squares with a pizza cutter, sharp knife, or pastry wheel. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (remove ones at edges as they brown). Cool and put into a covered container.

Makes 20 ounces, double the weight of standard Wheat Thins box. Number of crackers? I don't know... didn't count before the kids and I gobbled a few of them up.

No comments: