Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.
It's so easy to make home made crackers, once you do it, you'll never want to buy them again. The nice thing for me about making crackers at home is that you have the option of making a lot of different styles at a setting and always have the opportunity to make them healthier than the ones you buy at the market. They taste so good when they're fresh. The downside of these is that the shelf life is only about 5-7 days, but the batches are usually small enough that you can freeze part of them, or only make them for big gatherings.
The recipe I use most often is a very simple basic recipe. That changes,of course, once I start adding different things to it. I call these Annie's Crackers, here is the base recipe:
• 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 2/3 cup warm water
• 1/3 cup good quality olive oil
Pretty simple, eh ? One thing I want to warn you about right up front here is that - if you are like me and keep a fairly well stocked pantry, you need to constantly check your whole-wheat flours. Because these lovely whole grain flours have all the germ and bran in them, they will go rancid easily. This is due to lipid (fats) deterioration. The general rule of thumb for whole grain flour storage is 5-6 months after opening. You can tell if your flour is going bad by the smell--it will have an off or musty smell. It will affect the flavor of your baked goods, in fact, it will interfere with the rising of yeast breads. Whole grain flours should be stored in your freezer in an airtight container to prevent this. Let it come to room temperature before using. This is just something to keep in mind.
You can also make these crackers with white unbleached flour, if you prefer. I don't.
And so...back to the crackers.
1. Mix the ingredients together with a fork or spoon, just until combined. At this point, you can add some extras. I like to add flax seed meal, sunflower seeds, black sesame seeds and garlic granules. Add some rosemary if you like. Add whatever flavors and herbs you and your family likes. Of you put in too much, it will start feeling dry, and if that happens, you can add a little more oil.
2. Put a piece of parchment paper on your baking pan, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Oil your hands and start patting the dough out as thin as you can. If it's easier (and sometimes it does work better) lay the parchment paper on the table, and use a rolling pin to roll your dough out as thin as possible. This will create a more uniform dough ( a little less "home made" looking, but bakes more evenly) and will allow you to square up your dough a little better.
4. Then, using a pizza cutter, or a ravioli wheel (makes a nice design on the cracker edges), or even a sharp paring knife, cut your dough into squares or rectangles. I ground some fresh black pepper and sea salt onto the tops of them (there is enough oil from your hands to hold this on). Then carefully pick up your parchment paper by the edges and lift it back onto the baking pan. Depending on the size of your baking pan, you may need to divide your dough in half and do it in 2 batches.
5. Bake these little beauties at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes (or longer). Ovens vary, and sloppy cooks like me mess up baking times, because I put in a little too much water or oil, or basically change recipes because I think something sounds good, so I toss it in. So really, just watch it after 15 minutes, and when the crackers are all golden brown and crispy looking, take them out. Cool on racks, and they will crisp up even more as they cool.
These crackers are great for appetizers, with toppings. Even something as simple as a small piece of cheese. Or peanut butter. Or - hummus. When I did a workshop recently and brought these crackers, I made a batch of home made hummus to put on them. Everyone raved. In the event you think hummus is only something you buy at the deli...let me help you. Here is my favorite simple hummus recipe, made with canned chickpeas (that I buy by the case for my pantry. I keep them on hand because they are soooo nutritious.)
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 15-ounce cans of garbanzo beans, one drained, one with liquid
• 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled (more if you like it really garlicky)
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
Put all ingredients into your blender and process until smooth. It tastes even better if you can make it ahead of time and allow it to sit in the fridge so the flavors can meld. This is a simple hummus recipe. Hummus is a staple of many Middle Eastern countries, especially Israel, Palestine and other Arabic regions. It's made of ingredients that would be found in any middle eastern garden and kitchen. It can be used as a dip or a sandwich spread. It is a powerhouse of nutrition...between the chickpeas and the sesame seeds and the lemon juice and the garlic — wow !! Hummus is high in Iron and Vitamin C, contains significant amounts of folate and Vitamin B6. It's high in protein and dietary fiber from the beans. Contains the amino acid methionine, which complements the protein of the chickpeas. Hummus serves as a complete protein when served with bread.
Expand your horizons! Try new foods and introduce them to your family. My experience is that (especially children) people love to eat with their fingers and dive into the sensual and physical experience of new foods. because crackers and hummus are so versatile, there are lots of ways to play with them. I think tonight I will make falafel and hummus and crackers. Add some raw veggies for dipping into the hummus--carrots, celery, cucumbers and radishes. Finger food night at the Kelley house here on Honeysuckle Hill. Feel free to stop on by!
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