Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homemade Crackers

Who actually makes crackers? Can you tell I'm not working? But seriously, I haven't gotten bored yet, I've been filling my days with reading, errands, projects and of course, cooking. Not to mention some serious packing and moving drama. More to come on that note later.

My new obsession is cheese. I don't really know where this interest came from. I've always sort of liked cheese but I've never gone out of my way to buy it, eat it, or try new kinds. About 7 months ago, I found myself curious and itching to try some new kinds at our favorite local restaurant, Liberty Tavern. They have a fabulous menu which is almost completely sourced from independent farms and producers- including their cheese. After a few visits, I was able to narrow down my favorites. My top three are the Monocacy Ash (Cherry Glen, Maryland Goat), the Kunik (Nettle Meadow, New York Goat/Cow) and the Ricotto Al Tartufo (The Liberty Tavern, Virginia Cow). Anyway, if you are able to try these, definitely go for it!

The other day I went to the local Whole Foods. I love our local Giant for it's convenience and great deals on fruit, but it's not a huge store and doesn't have lots of options. So I went to the Whole Foods to get some coconut milk for tonight's dinner (post on that tomorrow). While I was there, I wandered by the cheese section "just to look". Why I thought I could just look and not actually buy anything is beyond me.

Needless to say, I walked out with a new kind of cheese. It is very similar to the Monocacy Ash I mentioned above. It's called Cypress Grove Chevre's "Humboldt Fog" and it's delicious (picture below). For a small little wedge it was about five and half dollars. For some people that might seem like a lot of money for a little chunk of cheese and my initial frugal (sometimes miserly) instinct screamed "no!". Then, I paused and realized, I don't drink (so I don't have to buy drinks), I don't smoke (so I don't have to buy smokes), I make all of my own desserts (so I don't buy them), frequently cook dinner and occasionally coupon. So, I think I deserve a little cheese!......Is that mental process a little weird? Oh well, it's what happened.

Now for the crackers- the whole purpose of this post. The truth is, I keep forgetting to buy them when I'm out! Then I walk into the kitchen and open the fridge and my cheese is sitting there whispering in an uber seductive voice "EAT ME". Ok, so it's not very subtle. I did try a few little bites, but I felt like I was letting my cheese cube down but only eating it off my fingies- plus it wasn't really the put together, sophisticated look I try to give off. This afternoon, after forgetting crackers again, I finally decided it couldn't be that hard to make crackers. After a quick google search I found a recipe here. It seemed easy enough and tasty, so I decided to give it a shot.

from the Huffington Post
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt (plus more from sprinkling)
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive (plus more for rolling and spreading)

I started by pre-heating the oven to 375 and then stirring together the ingredients. You want the dough to be fairly dry. I always struggle when trying to figure out whether I should use my fancy olive oil or whatever ingredient the recipe calls for. I don't want to be wasteful and run through the nice oils, but I also don't want to be stingy and just let the ingredients sit there and go to waste. So I came up with a good rule for myself: when olive oil is a main ingredient for flavor, I use my good stuff. When it's just being used for moisture or to cook onions, I use the bargain stuff. Since this dough has so little in it, I opted to go with the nice stuff and boy, was it a great call. I am eating the crackers as I write and I can taste the flavor of the oil and it's delicious!

Next, I covered the pan with a liberal dose of olive oil. You want the entire bottom of the pan to be nice and wet. Then plop the dough on the pan and using your hands, start to push out the dough. I went back and forth between my rolling pin and my hands. My rolling pin is really big though, so it wasn't as helpful as I had wanted. Then, sprinkle salt over the top of the dough (or cheese, herbs, etc. If I wasn't going to be having really flavorful cheese with these crackers, I'd definitely add some rosemary). Once the dough is nice and flat, use a sharp, smooth bladed knife and cut the dough into squares, rectangles or even triangles. I forgot this step, so I had to run back to the oven and do it part way through.

This pictures shows how the crackers looked after baking for about 20 minutes. I think if you pre-cut the crackers like you were supposed to it would take closer to 15 minutes. You want the edges to turn a nice golden brown, but not burn. Also, depending on how thin you want the crackers, your baking time will change. I used my medium size baking sheet and my crackers turned out to be about the size of triscuits, rather than wheat thins.

You can see my lovely cheese in the background, after a few
nibbles, of course.
I let the crackers cool completely, then had a few little snacks to tide me over before dinner!

My little buddy was quite interested in the cheese, I had to ward off some stealth attacks!

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