Crackers are the finger paintings of the homemade bread world; easy to prepare, an open canvas for creativity, and never disappointing. Even if you’ve never made a successful loaf of yeast bread, you’ll find that crackers go together quickly, are easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you have at hand, and can be a last minute addition equally welcome at a dinner party or beside a simple bowl of soup.
At their simplest, crackers are made from flour, liquid, and fat. The flour used can be anything from unbleached white flour to barley flour to corn flour and everything in between. I chose whole-grain triticale flour for this particular recipe.
Use wine, milk, buttermilk, beer or even yogurt for the included liquid. I used water in my recipe as I didn’t want the liquid to overshadow the other ingredients. Water lends a neutral flavor and doesn’t fight for dominance like wine or buttermilk might.
Most people think that crackers must be made using butter, lard, or shortening. Indeed, it would be easy to come to this conclusion if you were reading the ingredient lists of many store-bought crackers. In fact, packaged crackers were one of the last products to get rid of hydrogenated fats. Hydrogenated fats allowed the crackers to sit on the shelf for years before becoming stale. I don’t want my homemade crackers to hang around for that long. In fact, I am a little leery of a baked product that does last that long! Therefore, I used olive oil in this particular recipe, but if you want a richer cracker, butter is always a good choice.
We can create a beautiful painting using only red, yellow, and blue finger paint and we can create a tasty cracker using only flour, liquid and fat. But sometimes we want to jazz things up with a dab of brown or green or turquoise paint, or in the case of crackers; seeds, herbs, spices, other flavorings or leavening agents.
For this recipe I used chia seeds, salt/pepper, and a bit of baking powder. In the past I have used fresh herbs and sourdough starter in Homemade Herb Crackers and a combination of flaxseed, poppy seeds, anise seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and fennel seeds in Whole-Grain Seeded Crackerbread. Each year at Christmas I make Tomato-Basil crackers by adding tomato paste, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and dried basil. This previous post on Mother Earth News, Homemade Cracker Recipes, combines coarse rye flour with seeds and tangy buttermilk. As you can see, the palette for cracker creation is endless.
Triticale is a whole-grain hybrid made by crossing wheat and rye, preserving the best of both plants and improving on both of its parents. Higher in protein than either wheat or rye, and containing more minerals and fiber than either wheat or rye, triticale retains the earthy flavor of rye with the softer texture of wheat.
Although triticale has been around for 100 plus years, its popularity has lagged until recently. Look for triticale flour at your local natural foods store, or it can also be ordered from Bob’s Red Mill or Purcell Mountain Farms. Triticale flour can be used to make yeast breads, but because it is lower in gluten than wheat, the loaf will not rise very high.
Triticale berries can be soaked and cooked and used much like wheat berries in soups and salads. Rolled triticale flakes can be used like rolled oats in breads, granola, or porridge.
“Ch..ch..ch..chia”. Remember that song from the old advertisement for chia pets? Yep, it’s the same thing. Come to find out, chia seeds and the sprouts that gave all those pets their plush coats, are a nutritional powerhouse. Chia is another member of the mint family, one that is native to Mexico. Although the tiny chia seeds don’t really have much in the way of flavor, they are an excellent plant source of Omega 3 fatty acids and full of lots of minerals and fiber. Chia seeds help prevent blood sugar spikes and fight insulin resistance, making them a good diet choice for anyone suffering from diabetes.
Chia seeds can be found at almost every grocery and natural foods store now. Sprinkle them on yogurt or cereal, or add to smoothies, granola, breads and homemade crackers.
2 cups triticale flour
tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 tsp ground black pepper
4 tsp olive oil
¾ - 1 cup lukewarm water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the flour, salt, baking powder, chia seeds, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and ¾ cup water. Mix to incorporate all ingredients, adding more water if necessary for dough to hold together. Knead a few times until dough is smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes. Grease two large cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans. Divide dough in half. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to cover each cookie sheet, rolling dough as thin as possible. Prick dough all over with a fork and cut into desired size with a pizza cutter. Bake for 20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool. Break into individual crackers and store in a sealed container.
It’s easy to “paint” your own crackers using this recipe. Try using a combination of barley and white whole wheat flours, or corn and semolina flours instead of the triticale. Choose poppy seeds or flaxseeds or sesame seeds from your seed palette instead of chia. Add melted butter or walnut oil instead of olive oil to give your crackers a unique flavor. Before you know it, you’ll be as cracker-crazy as I am. It’s ok though, I’ve noticed that everyone likes to eat my homemade crackers. They disappear quickly, and yours will too.