Bzzzz January 1st, 2012

Do you ever wan­der through the gro­cery store, pick up a pack­age of pre­pared food and think to your­self, “I can make that?”

I’m not talk­ing about some pathetic box of pre-made pan­cakes or a frozen Lean Cui­sine. I’m talk­ing about pantry sta­ples, such as…well, such as crackers!

At my local gro­cery store the cracker selec­tion is, shall we say, min­i­mal­is­tic. There are the saltines, the Ritzes, the Triscuits. Beside them are a host of scary cracker com­bi­na­tions with ingre­di­ent lists that read like a for­eign phone book.  A gal with my taste for a crispy, savory, crack­ery treat is much disappointed.

The offer­ings at places such as Whole Foods are bet­ter. In fact, my favorite store-bought cracker is Dr. Kracker. I’m in love with Dr. Kracker. (Don’t tell my hus­band.) The crack­ers I’m talk­ing about are cellophane-wrapped in bun­dles of about eight crack­ers, heavy on the pump­kin seeds and cheese. I dream about these crack­ers. I will make these crack­ers some­day because, much as I love him, it takes me an hour to get my Kracker fix. See, I live in the coun­try and the near­est Whole Foods is an hour away.

I’m on a quest to make the per­fect cracker. I have read approx­i­mately 50 cracker recipes to under­stand cracker psy­chol­ogy. Yeast or no yeast? Cheese or no cheese? Seeds? Definitely.

Do you like nigella seeds? No, they have noth­ing to do with that beau­ti­ful, buxom bomb­shell on the Food Net­work. I’m talk­ing about the lit­tle triangle-shaped seeds used in Indian cook­ing. What? You don’t have them avail­able at your local Pig­gly Wig­gly? I don’t either. So I buy them from Penzy’s.

Nigella Seeds

This recipe is based on a recipe from Robert Sinskey Vine­yards. These crack­ers com­bine these won­der­ful, black, smokey nigella seeds with poppy seeds. And what’s a cracker with­out cheese, right? Throw some right in.

Cracker mak­ing isn’t nearly as dif­fi­cult as you might think. Set aside a cou­ple of hours. Make your­self a nice glass of cin­na­mon iced tea. Turn on some music or an audio book and work away. Heck, you can even take a leisurely nap while the dough is ris­ing. So give these Pep­pery Cheesy Crack­ers with Nigella and Poppy Seeds a whirl.

Hand-Crafted Pep­pery Cheesy Crack­ers with Nigella and Poppy Seeds

These crack­ers are won­der­ful with a roasted rus­tic tomato soup. They are also hearty enough to pair with an arti­choke dip, baba ganouch or hummus. 

1 cup warm water 1 table­spoon yeast 3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour 1 cup grated cheese, such as ched­dar, mon­terey jack or com­bi­na­tion 2 tea­spoons nigella seeds 1 tea­spoon poppy seeds 1 tea­spoon sesame seeds 1/4 tea­spoon pep­per 4 table­spoons unsalted but­ter, soft­ened at room temp olive oil coarse-grained salt corn meal

1. Mix warm water and yeast in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Mix flour into a stand mix­ing bowl equipped with a dough hook. Mix in yeast and water com­bi­na­tion at low speed until the dough forms into a shaggy dough.

3. Add cheese, seeds and soft but­ter and pep­per and con­tinue knead­ing until the dough is a fairly cohe­sive, but not tight ball–about 5 minutes.

4. Gather dough into a ball with your hands and place into a large, very lightly oiled bowl. Place the bowl in a warm place and cover with a towel. Because our house is fairly cool in the fall and win­ter, I often use a heat­ing pad set on medium. Let rise for about 90 minutes.

5.  Pre­heat oven to 375 degrees.

6.  Punch dough down. Divide into three work­ing sec­tions. Tak­ing one sec­tion, roll it into a ball. Then, using a rolling pin, roll it out until fairly thin and about 10 — 12″ x 10 — 12″. There is no need to flour the work sur­face. Turn the dough over a cou­ple of times to get an even sheet. Using a knife or dec­o­ra­tive pas­try cut­ter, trim the rolled-out sheet’s edges so you have a rec­tan­gle or square. Cut the rectangle/square into sec­tions about three inches square.  Gen­tly trans­fer the pieces onto a bak­ing sheet dusted lightly with corn meal. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprin­kle with salt.

7.  Bake the crack­ers for 8 to 10 min­utes, flip and bake for another 8 to 10 min­utes. The crack­ers should be golden brown and crisp. If not, cook until they are.

8.  Cool crack­ers on a rack and pro­ceed to work the remain­ing two pieces of dough in the same fashion.

9. Cool com­pletely before stor­ing in an air tight container.

10. Eat.


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