Many Sundays we choose a simple, easy lunch. Often, rice and beans. It’s filling, nutritious, and one of our favorites. But, we also like to have a bit of some sort of bread product along side. Often, it’s our homemade bread, but, since we were on vacation, we didn’t bake this past week. So, what to do? And fast. Ideally, we want something that will be done from start to finish in the time it takes to cook brown rice (45 minutes, or so).
Using our FIFO filing standard here at the Scratchin’ It library, we popped a recent recipe off that stack. It happened to come from Bake From Scratch, by Brian Hart Hoffman, the same place we got the recipe for the Soft IPA Pretzel Knots. And, while you can follow the recipe on the Bake From Scratch website, you’ll be eating soggy crackers. Once again, we had to adjust baking times significantly.
We suggest that you use a white whole-wheat flour, because it’s lighter in both color and flavor, so the taste of the IPA comes through. You don’t really need extra-virgin olive oil; you can also use something like canola oil. And, you might want to use sea salt for sprinkling. The beer you choose is up to you, but remember that you don’t even use a half a can or bottle for these crackers, so figure out what to do with the rest.
Procedure in detail:
Toast sesame seeds. Place the sesame seeds in a small heavy skillet over medium heat and toast until lightly browned and nutty smelling, about 5-7 minutes. A cast iron skillet is ideal. While the seeds are toasting, make sure to stir or shake the seeds often so they toast evenly. Once toasted, transfer to the bowl of a food processor. If you leave them in the hot skillet, they’ll continue to toast and could burn.
Pulse dry ingredients. Add the flours and salt to the sesame seeds, and pulse a couple of times to combine.
Mix liquid ingredients. In a measuring cup with a spout, mix together the beer and olive oil. A scale is very handy here, since the beer foams up, making it harder to measure accurately. The beer and oil won’t really mix; this step just makes it easier to pour the liquids into the food processor.
Process dough. With the processor running, slowly pour in the beer and oil mixture. Continue processing until a ball of dough forms and rides on the blade. It will be slightly sticky, but should be pretty easy to handle.
Knead. Not much kneading here, as you don’t want to develop the gluten. Instead, give the dough about 10 to 15 kneadings on a floured work surface, just to be sure the ingredients are well mixed.
Divide and shape crackers. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, and, working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out into a thin rectangle on a lightly floured piece of parchment. Keep the rectangle sized and shaped to fit your baking sheets. Try hard to roll the dough evenly; that way, your crackers will bake evenly, and less than 1/8 inch thick. Too thick and you might break a tooth when you bite into them.
Top crackers. Use a pastry brush to brush the rolled-out cracker dough with beer. Sprinkle salt on top. The secret to an even sprinkle is to sprinkle the salt from 12 to 18 inches above the work surface.
Dock. Simply take a fork and prick the crackers, pressing the tines through the dough. This “docks” the top of the cracker to the bottom, so it won’t puff up with big air bubbles. You can be careful and make nice patterns, or just hit the crackers in random spots; both methods work. Pick up the parchment, crackers and all, and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, or until the crackers are a nice golden brown. The crackers near the edges will brown a bit faster than those in the center, so you need to check often when the crackers are almost done. With anything as thin as crackers, the time from done to burned is short.
Cool. These crisp up more as they cool, so let them cool right on the baking sheet; the remaining heat will help drive of any residual moisture. If you happen to walk by while they’re cooling and a cracker simply jumps into your hand, we understand.
Easily made from start to finish in under 45 minutes, including cleanup of all the preparation tools. In the original recipe these were referred to as saltines, but they’re not. They are crackers, though, and tasty crackers at that. We like the toasted sesame flavor, the way they get nice and crispy, and, of course, what’s not to like about the sprinkle of salt on top? Four crackling stars.