Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Olive Oil Crackers with Sesame

People tend to be surprised that I make my own crackers, but they're easy, they're fresh, and they contain only what I put in them... and I can put all sorts of things in them, depending on my mood. Crackers are great on their own, but if I know I'm going to serve them with a specific cheese or dip or pate, I like to tailor the flavors to match.

Right now, JG and I have some amazing cheeses from Houston Dairymaids. My favorite is a creamy semi-ripe from grass-fed cows with a rich color and out of this world earthy flavor that merited a cracker with a little extra crunch.
Recipe: Olive Oil Crackers with Sesame
You can use a pizza wheel or fluted pastry wheel to make evenly-sized crackers. Be sure to cut all the way through the dough. They'll break easily along the score lines after they're cooled.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup bread (high-protein) flour [you can sub all-purpose or more whole wheat]
3/4 cup water

additional flour for rolling
1 egg
1/8 cup water
1 tsp white sesame
1 tsp black sesame
1/2 tsp brown mustard seed
cracked black pepper

Turn oven on to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Drizzle oil over and squeeze through with your fingers until evenly distributed. Add remaining flour, stir briefly to distribute, and water. Stir, scraping sides, until dough ball forms. It's a pretty wet dough, so it'll be a little sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest 17 minutes. [The rest, called autolyse in baking, is crucial for gluten formation.]

Coat two cookie sheets with flour [or parchment paper and flour]. Divide dough in half, sprinkle with flour and roll out as thinly as possible, adding more flour when necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Repeat with second sheet. Whisk together the egg and water and brush over the dough [this makes the toppings stick. I just pour it on and smear it with my hand if I can't find a pastry brush]. Sprinkle seeds and pepper over dough and bake 15-18 minutes or until edges brown. The crackers will harden as they cool and they're easy to burn, so keep an eye on them. Once cooled, break apart into desired size.

Variations:
Use the oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in place of olive oil and add the tomatoes, chopped small, to the dough.
Use the brine from a jar of olives in place of water. Reduce or omit salt.
Use all whole-wheat flour and top with wheat germ.
Reduce water by 1 Tbs and replace with 1 Tbs soy sauce for more savory crackers. Reduce salt by half.

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