Friday, November 5, 2010
Recently a friend was asking me about Doctor Kracker. He liked them and asked if I had known they were made in Dallas; I hadn't! I knew of them and had tried them (quite tasty).
This exchange got me thinking about making my own.
I came across an interesting recipe on NPR's site by Peter Reinhart which follows. I was able to find most of the ingredients in the bulk section of the grocery store.
I was very pleased with the results. They were faster and easier to make than I expected.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day: Fast and Easy Recipes for World-Class Breads by Peter Reinhart, copyright 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House Inc.
Makes 4 pans of crackers
1/4 cup (1.5 oz / 42.5 g) sunflower seeds
1/4 cup (1.5 oz / 42.5 g) pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons (1 oz / 28.5 g) flaxseeds
6 tablespoons (2 oz / 56.5 g) sesame seeds
1-3/4 cups (8 oz / 227 g) rye flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, or 1/3 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons (1 oz / 28.5 g) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon (0.75 oz / 21 g) honey or agave nectar
3/4 cup (6 oz / 170 g) water, at room temperature
Egg white wash or sweet wash (see garnishing washes below)
Garnishes (see variations, below)
Grind the sunflower and pumpkin seeds into a fine powder or flour in a blender or spice grinder. Blend in pulses and be careful not to blend too long, or they’ll turn into seed butter. Separately, grind the flaxseeds into a fine powder.
Combine the seed powders and the whole sesame seeds, rye flour, salt, vegetable oil, honey, and water in a mixing bowl. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on slow speed for 1 to 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, use a large, sturdy spoon and stir for 1 or 2 minutes. The dough should quickly form a firm ball and shouldn't be sticky. Stir in flour or water as needed to adjust the texture.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 30 seconds to be sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and that the dough holds together. It should be slightly tacky but not sticky.
Preheat the oven to 300°F (149°C), or 275°F (135°C) for a convection oven, and prepare 1 baking sheet for each quarter of the dough that you plan to bake, lining them with parchment paper or a silicone mat. You don’t need to oil the paper or liner.
Divide the dough into four equal pieces. (For any that you won’t be baking right away, wrap them well, and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months; the flavor actually improves after a day or two in the refrigerator.) Use a rolling pin to roll out one portion of the dough on a floured work surface, frequently lifting the dough with a metal pastry scraper or bowl scraper to be sure it isn’t sticking and dusting with more flour underneath if need be. You can also flip the dough over and continue rolling with the bottom side up. The goal is to roll it to about 1/16 inch in thickness. If the dough resists, gently set it aside and begin rolling out another piece, or let it rest for about 2 minutes. When you return to it, it will roll more easily.
Finishing The Dough And Baking
Brush the surface of the dough with an even coating of whichever wash you prefer, then sprinkle the surface with whatever garnishes you like (see the variations below).
Use a pizza cutter to cut the rolled dough into rectangles, diamonds, or other shapes. You can also use a small biscuit cutter dipped in flour to make round crackers, but this takes longer, and then you have leftover dough. The crackers need not all be the same size. Transfer the crackers to the prepared pan. They can be nearly touching, as they won’t spread or rise.
If making more than one pan of crackers, you can bake them all at once. Place the pans on different shelves and bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another 10 minutes. Rotate the pans once more and continue baking until they’re don—— typically 25 to 30 minutes altogether, but it depends on how thin you roll them and on your oven. The crackers are done when they have a rich golden brown color and are fairly dry and crisp. Leave them on the pans to cool so they’ll crisp up even more. To get a little more browning on the crackers, increase the heat to 325°F (163°C) after they’ve dried sufficiently to be crisp (20 to 25 minutes). If they don’t snap cleanly after they cool, return the pan to a hot oven for a few more minutes until they dry sufficiently to snap when broken.
Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Once thoroughly cooled, the crackers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 8 days, or in a ziplock bag in the freezer indefinitely.
Sesame seeds and poppy seeds are the best garnishing seeds because they’re light, and because their flavor isn’t so strong that they’ll overpower the taste of the cracker, as something like cumin or anise seeds would. Flaxseeds are a little too hard to chew, especially when baked on top of crackers, but some people do like them as a garnish. Other savory garnishes include garlic salt, lemon pepper, and other common spice blends and rubs. You can make wonderful toppings by combining herbs and oil, such as herbes de Provence covered with just enough oil to make a paste. In this case, don’t use a glaze; simply brush the oil on the cracker dough just prior to baking. Flavored herb and garlic oils can also be brushed onto the crackers as soon as they come out of the oven, to shine them up and add flavor. If you try this, return the crackers to the oven for 5 minutes more to set the glaze.
This recipe uses rye flour for a unique flavor, but you can substitute either regular whole wheat flour or the newly popular white whole wheat flour, which is a lighter color and has a slightly sweeter, less bitter flavor than traditional red wheat. You can also use all-purpose flour if you prefer a lighter cracker, and reduce the water by 1 tablespoon for every 2 ounces of white flour that you substitute.
To make the garnishes stick to the dough, you need either an egg white wash for savory crackers or a sweet wash for seeds or a sweet garnish. To make the egg wash, whisk 1 egg white with 2 tablespoons of water. To make the sweet wash, whisk 1 tablespoon of honey or agave nectar with 3 tablespoons of water.