Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma'am: A Recipe

Ever since I moved to France, I have struggled with having to meet needs that are not easily met. Sure, the medical care is fine, the transportation system is more than adequate, and we have a lovely piece of property here, but what about all of my cravings for food from back home? How am I to deal with that? It's not easy, since I'm truly a food lover at heart. You wouldn't believe some of the things that Americans I know import to France. Seriously, you'd probably be astonished.

My humble list of imports that I just can't find here include powdered buttermilk, huge packages of yeast, baking powder and baking soda, powdered gelatin (though, I think I could easily live without this), barley malt, chocolate chips, several varieties of Mexican peppers, corn husks and malted milk powder. There is an even longer list of goodies I hand-make myself just to fulfill various cravings. Of course, that list often includes items I've imported in order to make stuff. Other times, I'm lucky enough to easily locate all the ingredients necessary and whip up a batch of something that really makes me happy.

That was the case yesterday. We all know I've been craving salty foods since I got pregnant. That hasn't stopped much, and crackers and cheese jumped to the top of the cravings list the other day. Problem is, there isn't a huge variety of crackers available here. I guess bread is more their thing, and I can usually deal with that, but I do love crackers. In fact, the last time I was in the US, I took a little trip to Trader Joe's just before catching my flight home to stock up on airplane snacks for me and the kids. Knowing I often get a little airsick, I like to have plenty of water and some salt crackers to settle my tummy. Looking to solve this problem is what prompted me to purchase Trader Joe's Stone Ground Wheat Crackers (the low-salt variety, I think). I fell in love, of course, and cannot have them anymore.

Remembering the flavor, though, I got online to search for cracker recipes. I came up with one that interested me. After heavily modifying it, I had a quick and easy basic cracker recipe that tasted great with cheese, even if it may not have been an exact replica of those yummy Trader Joe's crackers. They're so simple to make, and I assume much cheaper than store-bought crackers, that I thought I'd share the recipe. Feel free to play around with it, and let me know if you hit on something fabulous that I should know about.

Wham Bam, Thank You Ma'am Whole Wheat Crackers
1 cup wheat flour (stone ground organic is perfect for this)
1/2 tsp salt (Kosher is best, if you can get it), plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp butter, chilled
1/4 cup cold water (or just enough to get a pie crust-like dough)

Preheat oven to 375F (approximately). Mix dry ingredients together. Add butter and either process in food processor or mix by hand (rubbing between fingers and those handy opposable thumbs works well) till mixture has approximate texture of cornmeal. Gradually add water, stirring mixture with fork or wooden spoon (or in a food processor) until a firm, non-sticky dough is obtained. Do not over knead, as this will create chewy crackers without much crunch.

Dust a 12"x14" unrimmed cookie sheet with flour. Roll dough out onto cookie sheet using a roller (you can refrigerate the dough for a bit to make it easier to roll out, but it works without this step, as well). Roll it thinly enough to almost cover the cookie sheet. With pizza cutter, slice horizontal and vertical lines to obtain desired cracker size (mine are mini-crackers approximately an inch square). Brush entire dough sheet with either water or vinegar (it may take a decent amount of vinegar to get the flavor you want). Then, dust with desired amount of salt.

Bake until desired doneness is obtained. Probably 15-20 minutes for crisp crackers. A good way to know if the crackers are done is to sneak in and grab one to taste. Repeat this procedure till they are fully cooked or all gone (in which case, you'll have to make a whole new batch).
Note: I wasn't very careful about rolling my dough into an exact rectangle. This made the edges of the dough thinner than the inner parts. This gave me a variety of crunchinesses in my crackers. I kind of like this. If you don't, try to be a bit more exact when rolling out, and you may even consider slicing off the thinner edges and rerolling them. I'm just not a stickler for these sorts of details.

Variations: I'm thinking that replacing some of the water during mixing with vinegar could yield some tasty salt and vinegar crackers (I tried the light brushing, and it just didn't cut it). Also, adding some toasted sesame seeds in with the dry ingredients could be great. Dried Nori seaweed could be good with this, maybe adding a tiny bit of soy sauce (or just toss in some of that Japanese rice seasoning that's got seaweed, salt, sesame seeds and other good stuff all in it). These, of course, would be added to the dry ingredients. And, you could always spike these with whatever spices are your favorite (dusting them over the top with the salt would work nicely).

Allow to cool and serve with cheese or eat however you like crackers best.