Monday, January 6, 2014

Whole Wheat Sesame and Black Pepper Crackers

Oh, hello there. I nearly forgot I had a blog. Yikes. After attempting to work full-time and attend graduate school this fall, something had to give, and unfortunately it was my blog. After a few recovery weeks and the holidays, I am ready to approach blogging again. It was a necessary break, but I hope I am able to maintain at least sporadic posting during the following semester.

Since I last posted, some fun food activities have developed in our house. Dave has become an avid bread baker, busting out beautiful, delicious loaves every week. For Christmas presents this year, I took a stab at making chocolate bars from scratch. I roasted cocoa nibs and blitzed them into oblivion with some cocoa butter and sugar. It was a complicated, but super satisfying process. Tempering the chocolate was a bit frustrating, especially because I'm not detail-oriented. I found the finished product to be gritty, which can only be prevented with a special food processor. Still, the chocolate flavor was intense, floral and very delicious. If I make chocolate again, I will post about the process. 

Dave's 50 Percent Whole Wheat Bread
Autumn's Dark Chocolate with Roasted Pistachios and Sea Salt
After the rich foods we inevitably ate during the holidays, lighter meals currently appeal to me. For instance, I love the simple picnic-y meal of good cheese, crackers, smoked salmon and pickled vegetables. My mom made crackers over the holidays, so I was inspired to make some crackers once I was back in Missoula. 

Not surprisingly, making crackers is super easy. I decided on water crackers, since they are the lightest, crispest of crackers. I also used some whole wheat flour to add some nuttiness. I love sesame seeds and the spiciness of black pepper, but other toppings (or no toppings) would work with this cracker recipe.

I actually made one batch of crackers where I pressed the sesame seeds into the dough by hand after I had completely rolled it out. After I took the crackers out of the oven, all of the sesame seeds slid off. On the second batch, I decided to press in the sesame seeds and black pepper using the rolling pin towards the end of the rolling. The seeds and pepper were adequately pressed into the dough and did not fall off after baking.

In order to achieve a cracker-y crispness, it is key to cook the cracker dough completely. Let the edges of the dough adequately brown, otherwise the center will be soft.  If the crackers are not crisp enough after they have been broken up, throw them back in the oven for a few minutes. 

Cutting the crackers can be tricky. I broke up the first batch by hand and the second batch with a knife. Both yielded a roughly cracker shape. If a more uniform, rectangular cracker shape is desired, then precut the dough with a pizza cutter once it is laid out on the cookie sheet. Making the cut marks will help the crackers break apart in rectangles once cooked. I like the rustic look of the broken pieces, so I did not precut mine. 

Whole Wheat Sesame and Black Pepper Crackers
Adapted from Epicurious

Makes approximately 1 1/2 dozen crackers

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c white flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or scant 1/2 tsp sea salt)
1/4 c water, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons
1 Tbsp olive oil

2-3 tsp raw sesame seeds
fresh black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly dust a cookie sheet with flour or line it with parchment paper. 

Mix the flours and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the water and oil in a liquid measuring cup or a small bowl. Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Mix together. If the dough is dry, then add a teaspoon or two of water (I added two teaspoons). Mix the dough just until a ball can be easily formed. Do NOT knead the dough. Let sit for 10 minutes to rest before rolling.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. Once it reaches about 1/8-inch in thickness, evenly distribute the sesame seeds and freshly cracked black pepper on the surface. Continue to roll out the dough until it is about 1/16-inch in thickness or roughly 10-inches by 15-inches. Carefully fold the dough over on itself and lift it onto the cookie sheet. Prick the dough all over with a fork to prevent bubbles from forming.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the center is hard. Cool on a rack. Break up crackers by hand or with a sharp knife. Store crackers in a sealed container.