I’ve Gone Crackers
My brother Tyler has recently gone paleo. Modeled after some hypothetical caveman, the dietary lifestyle involves eating foods that would’ve been available during the Paleolithic era. This includes meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries. There are no grains, legumes, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, dairy products, or potatoes on the diet. Tyler absolutely loves it, and has been calling and emailing me with reminders extolling the virtues of going paleo.
While it seems easy, and the recipes look delicious, I just can’t fathom it. No bread? No cheese? No wine? No way. I am weak. I have no willpower. Just thinking about giving up all the things I love sent me into a carb-ridden binge. Suddenly everything I made was better with cheese; I consumed five cookies with one pot of tea; I dreamed about buttered popcorn; I began researching DIY cracker recipes.
Maybe you have my sheer weakness and my brother to thank for this column, for I have found the secrets to creating perfect home-made Wheat Thins, Cheeze-Its, and water crackers. You’ll never have to buy crackers again, leaving ample time to shame eat in a dark room, comforted by a large wheel of brie and your own artisan crackers.
Somewhere around my fifth handful of Cheeze-Its, I wondered if someone could ingest enough crackers over their lifetime that they suddenly become allergic to all crackers. Could this explain the recent buzz on gluten-free lifestyles? I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I completely lose it, let’s get started on crackers shall we?
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for sprinkling on
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Add the butter, run the food processor for 10-20 seconds until the mixture forms thick crumbs. If you don’t have a processor, cut the butter into the flour mixture (just like with pastry dough) until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Mix water and vanilla together in a measuring cup and with the processor running, pour in the water mixture through the feed tube. Run the processor until a dough ball forms.
If the dough still seems too dry, feel free to add a bit more water. Sprinkle a few drops on at a time. Split the dough in half. On a floured surface or on a non-stick mat, roll out half of the dough very thin (about 1/16th inch). My bench scraper has a handy ruler on it, which I used to create squares, but you can use a pizza cutter, knife, or cookie cutters to create whatever shapes you want. Transfer the crackers to the baking sheet, and sprinkle with more salt just before baking for 8 to 10 minutes.
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper (optional)
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese (I went for 3/4 cup cheddar, 1/4 cup parmesan)
3-5 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350. Place flour, salt, and pepper in a food processor, and pulse to mix. Add butter and process until the mixture has coarse crumbs. Slowly add the cheese, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing between to fully incorporate. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the water through the feed tube, pausing to check consistency. Quit once a dough ball has formed.
Flatten the dough ball and refrigerate for at least a half hour. Having cold dough will help the crackers puff during baking. You can leave the dough overnight if you wish. Once properly chilled, roll out to about 1/8 inch, and use whatever cutters you like. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or cover with baking spray. Bake for 18-20 minutes, monitoring closely after 10.
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (can substitute olive oil)
Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease two large cookie sheets, or cover with parchment paper. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in water and oil, and mix until a smooth dough forms; use a spoon or fork. Halve dough and roll out each half to about 1/16 inch, cutting with whatever cutters you choose. If you poke a few holes in each cracker, they will be less likely to puff and will remain flat. If you wish, just before rolling out sprinkle on a bit of cracked pepper, garlic powder, or chopped rosemary onto the dough and work in.
Enjoy at your own risk.
I don’t know how versed Matador Networks is on food writing, but somebody put together a piece on How to Open a Food Truck. Thoughts?