April 24, 2013

Homemade crackers in no time flat

Save money with custom platforms for cheeses, dips, tapenades or pepper jellies.

By JANE TOUZALIN/The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

CRACKERS
click image to enlarge

Butter is the key ingredient in Everona Market Crackers, whose variations include corn spice and cocoa versions.

Deb Lindsey photos for The Washington Post

CRACKERS
click image to enlarge

Crisp Rosemary Flatbread Crackers make a tasty hostess gift.

Lacking preservatives and factory-sealed plastic packaging, my crackers don't have the shelf life of most store-bought ones. I seal them in zip-top food storage bags and keep them at room temperature, and most are good for several days, if not longer. Or I separate them into smaller quantities and freeze them. (Labeling and dating them first, of course.)

Crackers that seem a little tired after defrosting or a little past their prime can often be revived by a brief stay in a 300-degree oven.

I mentioned earlier that you don't need special equipment to make crackers -- a rolling pin and a baking sheet will get you there -- but a pasta machine or pasta mixer attachment can help create crackers that are thinner than hand-rolled, which often translates as better. My old hand-crank machine sets up in a minute and is good for turning out long oval or smaller round crisps.

Bottom line: DIY crackers are worth the time and effort, though I'd probably feel differently if I'd decided to go with yeast. But I love their look and taste, and I can imagine proudly presenting them -- fetchingly packaged -- upon arrival at my next dinner party.

Now, will someone please invite me?

CRISP ROSEMARY FLATBREAD CRACKERS

Makes 24 2-by-9-inch oval crackers or 5-inch round crackers.

These crackers look impressive, they taste great and they couldn't be easier. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to five days. Adapted from a recipe in the July 2008 issue of Gourmet.

13/4 cups flour, plus more for the work surface

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing

Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon

Place a heavy baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees.

Lightly flour a work surface.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 tablespoon of the chopped rosemary in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, then add the water and oil, gradually stirring them into the flour until a soft, shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead gently 4 or 5 times to bring the dough together into a soft, smooth ball.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap. Divide the first piece into 4 equal pieces; roll each one out on a sheet of parchment paper into a long oval shape, roughly 2 inches wide and 9 inches long, or into a circle with a diameter of at least 5 inches. The dough should be very thin.

Use the tines of a fork to prick the cracker several times.

Alternatively, and for crisper results, use a pasta machine to roll out each piece of dough until very thin, usually the fifth setting on the machine. Transfer to a sheet of parchment paper.

Right before baking, lightly brush the top of each cracker with oil. Scatter a little of the remaining chopped rosemary on top, then a little of the flaked salt, pressing slightly so the flakes adhere.

Slide the parchment onto the preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the crackers to a wire rack to cool.

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