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Peach Plum Ginger Jam

August 21, 2011

Canning, as it turns out, is not that hard. Time-consuming yes, but hard no. So if we have enough time, there will definitely be more jam in our future. The one we made — a peach-plum-ginger affair from Food in Jars — was delicious, and I get the feeling that it is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of jam and canning possibilities.

So why did I put aside my fears of botulism and finally try to make and can my own jam? To start with, it’s a very bottom-up thing to do. But I have an ulterior motive. There is a jar of jam in my fridge that I am trying hard to displace: a 42-ounces vat of Kirkland-brand strawberry jam from Costco. When Alex brought it home, I cried “factory food.” But my complaints fell on deaf ears. I’m hoping that appealing to taste buds will work better.

The peach-plum-ginger jam is delicious. It tastes like cooked peaches, for sure, a bit like a peach tart. But the plums give it depth, and the ginger gives it a tiny bit of lift. A very nice flavor. And great peaches, just $2.50/pound from Kimball Farms at the Cambridgeport Farmers Market.

The recipe outlined below is slightly different from the original, but not appreciably: same ingredients, but different quantities and proportions. To make two 12oz jars, you’ll need:

  • Canning jars, rings, and lids (non-optional)
  • Cheesecloth
  • 4 cups peaches, peeled and mashed (I used 1/2 white and 1/2 yellow peaches)
  • 1.5 cups plums, peeled and mashed
  • 4 oz ginger, peeled
  • 2 1/2 cups organic raw sugar

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Wash your jars, lids, and rings with soap and water and set aside on a clean towel. If you are paranoid like me, you can also sterilize the jars, rings, and lids by placing them in boiling water.
  • Combine all of the ingredients EXCEPT the ginger in a large stockpot.
  • Combine the ginger with 1/4 cup water in a food processor, stopping to wipe down several times.
  • Put the resulting ginger-water paste in cheesecloth and squeeze all of the liquid out into the stockpot. Discard the ginger pulp.
  • Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches at least 210 degrees and as high as 220. The mixture should be thicker than when you started, more like jam. If not, refer to troubleshooting tips.
  • While the jam is cooking, put the jars in boiling water. Remove them just before you are ready to fill them with jam.
  • Fill the jars with jam, wipe the rims, cover with lids, and screw rings on.
  • Place the filled jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • CAREFULLY remove the jars of jam from boiling water bath (a jar lifter comes in handy here) and let stand to cool. You will ultimately hear the lids pop as the contents of the jars cool and a vacuum is created.
  • Store in a cool dark place for up to one year.

Ten Tiny Tacos

August 13, 2011

There is a bar in Cambridge called Middlesex Lounge that is nearly empty from 5pm to 8pm, making it a great spot for a big group of friends looking to hang out after work. After 8pm, Middlesex plays bad music, and MIT students show up to dance badly to it. This is fun on some nights and sad on others.

Among my friends, Middlesex is famous for an appetizer it offers called Ten Tiny Tacos. Ten Tiny Tacos aren’t listed on this online menu, but I have confirmed that they are still alive and kicking. And why not? At a cost of $10 per order, or $1 per tiny taco, making these must be like minting money. I’ve tracked down an old picture of the pork edition, but I don’t yet have a shot of the bean edition.

Fortunately, we long ago deciphered the recipe for this snack. I have been frustrated because it includes one ingredient that is decidedly not bottom-up: Tostitos Scoops chips. They make a great vessel for these tacos, but I can’t make them, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to. If you know how, please leave a comment. In general, this recipe is much less “bottom up” than I’d like.

Instead of making these ten at a time, I like to make a batch of about fifty – enough to make it worth your while, and sufficient food for dinner for two. To do this, you will need:

  • 1/4 bag Tostitos Scoops
  • 12 oz black beans
  • 1/2 an avocado, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 1 shallot or small onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced very thinly (you can substitute red pepper flakes if you like, using about 2 tbsp)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes cut into quarters or eighths depending on size or 1 large tomato diced
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese diced into 1/2″ cubes (it would be great to make this, but it takes months)
  • Small bunch fresh cilantro (unless you think cilantro tastes like soap)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (hope to post a recipe for sour cream soon)
  • 1 small plastic bag

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Lay out the Scoops chips, all right side up, using only the unbroken chips.
  • Spoon 3-5 black beans into each shell.
  • Put 1-2 avocado squares into each shell.
  • Spread the onion pieces evenly amongst the shells.
  • Put one piece of tomato into each shell.
  • Put one slice of jalapeno pepper or 4-5 pieces of red pepper flakes into each shell
  • Put 1-2 pieces of cheese into each shell.
  • Put the sour cream into a plastic bag, cut the tip off, and squeeze a dollop out onto the contents of each shell.
  • Put one leaf of cilantro on top of each shell.
  • Place in the oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted, and serve hot.

As you can see, the recipe is pretty flexible. You may not always have all of these ingredients, but so long as you have the scoops, the cheese, and a few of them you can usually pull off some version of the dish.

Another option is to make this in its “deconstructed” form, otherwise known as taco salad. This involves using normal tortilla chips, putting all of the ingredients in a bowl, microwaving it for a minute or two, and then stirring well. It’s not as important to use sour cream in this version, I find, since when you stir it the ingredients all smoosh together a bit and form a bit of a sauce.

However you enjoy ten tiny tacos, be sure to share the recipe!

Homemade Farfalle with Butter, Sage, and Parmesan

August 12, 2011

Our pasta adventures continue, still without a pasta maker. If anyone ever asks me why we don’t have one, I’m going to answer that we do and then show them our rolling pin. I really am convinced that is all that anyone needs to make good pasta.

It turns out that my favorite pasta shape – farfalle, or bow-tie pasta – is a cinch to make at home. All that you have to do is cut pasta squares, pinch them a bit, and then cook them as you would any other pasta. The best way to learn is to watch this blessedly to-the-point video.

Because we have a massive haul of sage, I found myself looking for a recipe featuring it. We’ve previously enjoyed this pasta recipe with sage and squash, but it takes an awfully long time. (It’s also weirdly tuned to the size of the author’s pans.)

This New York Times pasta, sage, and Parmesan recipe is much simpler and speedier. Interestingly, it is allegedly the original pasta Alfredo.

“The once popular Alfredo sauce of butter, cream, eggs, and cheese — which now seems unconscionably heavy — was a bastardization of this simple butter-and-Parmesan sauce, a beautiful classic.”

Here’s what you’ll need to make this pasta, sage, and Parmesan recipe from the bottom up (not using store-bought pasta, as the New York Times does):

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 medium eggs (or 3 large eggs…or just more flour)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 30 sage leaves (really. or even more. but if your leaves are huge, cut them into strips.)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (or pecorino, which is what we used)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here’s what to do:

  • Whisk flour and salt together. Form a well in the middle. Crack eggs into the well in the flour. Use a fork to whisk eggs together and then slowly begin incorporating the flour into your whisking, continuing until you have a messy ball of dough.
  • Tip dough out onto floured counter and knead until it is completely smooth and pretty springy. This takes about 10 minutes. Don’t shortchange the kneading, or your pasta won’t work.
  • Cover dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Roll the dough out into a long rectangle, getting it as thin as you possibly can, but not so thin that when you pick it up it falls apart.
  • Slice the dough lengthwise and then widthwise to form squares, about 1″ x 1.”
  • For each square, put your index finger in the middle, squeeze in the sides with your thumb and middle finger, remove your index finger, and then finish squeezing with your thumb and middle finger. This forms the farfalle shape.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta for 1-2 minutes, about 30 seconds longer than it takes for it to float to the surface. Retain the pasta water.
  • Melt the butter in a frying pan. Sautee the sage leaves until crispy. Add the cooked and drained pasta and pan-fry for 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the Parmesan. Thin with 3/4 cup pasta water or more as necessary and stir for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve with a light dusting of additional Parmesan, if desired.

We were amazed by how fresh and light this pasta was – the opposite of most pasta alfredos! The farfalle was the best we had ever had, and would have delighted us even served in a top-notch restaurant. Definitely worth making from the bottom up.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

August 4, 2011

Want to make dill pickles without boiling water or worrying about the risk of botulism, as you’d have to with a traditional pickle recipe? Refrigerator dill pickles to the rescue! These pickles require less than five minutes of prep time, but you have to wait a day before you enjoy them. Although you are supposed to eat them in a week, I’ve found them to be perfectly good much longer than that. This recipe is a modified version of a recipe I got from Boston Organics, an organic food delivery service in Boston.

Most dill pickle recipes recommend that you dissolve the sugar in the water and cider vinegar in a saucepan over heat, but because I use different size jars and different size pickles each time I make this I never know how much water I’ll need and thus how much to dissolve the sugar into. But I’ve found you don’t really need to dissolve the sugar, especially if you shake well at the end of the recipe. That said, if you have your heart set on dissolving the sugar over heat, I recommend doing so into the vinegar and less water than you are likely to need – maybe 1/2 of a cup. The point of dissolving over heat is to make a syrup, which is unlikely to separate back into water and sugar.

To make these pickles you will need:

  • 1 small bunch dill, minced along with stems and any flowers
  • 1/4 white onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp dill seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 canning cucumbers, which tend to be smaller and squatter than most cukes
  • water to cover contents, exact amount depends on the size of your glass jar and the number/size of your cucumber slices

Here’s what to do:

  • Grind the white pepper, yellow mustard, and dill seeds in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder (the latter works even better on dill seeds).*
  • Combine all ingredients except for water in jar.
  • Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then cut each one of these halves again in half lengthwise.
  • Pack as many of the cucumber slices as you can into jar. Eat the rest.
  • Fill to top with water, cap, and shake to dissolve sugar and salt.
  • Refrigerate for 24 hours and enjoy.

*In the pictures you can see that on this go around I forgot to grind the mustard seeds and dill seeds and just threw them in whole  – oops! This is what comes of using one pre-ground ingredient (white pepper): You forget that others aren’t ready to go right in. No worries, it turned out fine.

Homemade Ginger Ale

July 31, 2011

Nothing better for heat than a cold drink. This ginger ale requires just a few minutes of prep time, but it also needs two days of wait time. So if you’re hot on Monday, it’ll cool you down on Wednesday. Once you get started, you can keep yourself in perpetual supply by brewing one batch while you drink another.

Here is what you’ll need for this ginger ale:

  • 2L plastic bottle (don’t use glass)
  • Funnel (optional)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger root
  • Water to fill

And here’s what you’ll do with all this good stuff:

  • Put sugar and yeast in the bottle
  • Juice your lemon* (I love this juicer)
  • Combine lemon juice and ginger in a bowl. Let sit for a few minutes. Add to bottle.
  • Fill bottle to 1 inch below top with water. Tip back and forth to dissolve sugar.
  • Leave in warm place for 24 to 48 hours, until bottle feels hard when you squeeze it and does not dent in response.
  • Move to refrigerator to stop fermentation. Serve and enjoy.

I leave the ginger in and enjoy the crunch, but if you aren’t a fan of raw ginger you might want to strain it out. Same goes for the lemon pulp.

Using yeast for carbonation results in a gentle, irregular bubble. It makes me realize just how unnaturally strong and regular the carbonation in most bottled carbonated beverages feels. Your first drinks from this bottle will be more carbonated than your last, and your drinks will be more carbonated immediately upon pouring them. These are all true for bottled carbonated beverages, yes, but they’re even more true here.

Three Months of Homemade Bread for Alex: Part III

July 25, 2011

The present I gave to Alex on his birthday – three months of continuous fresh bread in the house – has been interrupted by travel and illness. I’m choosing to treat it like a school year; imagine that we had too many snow days and so school is continuing later into the summer. As you can see, I’ve started to stray a bit from bread into bread-like treats. Oops. Some of the best recipes I’ve made recently are included below. You can check out previous updates on this present here  (Part I) and here (Part II).

  • Raincoast crisp crackers using this Dinner with Julie recipe. I loved these, but others weren’t as fond. I like the main batter quite a lot, and baking them twice achieves a neat texture. (You have to be sure to keep them in an airtight container to maintain it.) But the mix of fillings added to the batter didn’t quite add up to awesome for me. I’ll try a different combination on the next go-around.
  • Black bread from a Smitten Kitchen recipe. This recipe calls for 17 ingredients, ranging from chocolate to shallots to caraway seeds, and each and every one of them is worth including. Strangely, the bread doesn’t seem to have been gobbled up quickly. That might be because the bread is a bit dense, potentially making it more appropriate in colder months.
  • Graham crackers per Nancy Silverton’s “Pastries From La Brea Bakery.” I can’t figure out what it is that makes these taste so good. It couldn’t be the wheat germ. Could it? They taste like they are flavored with some kind of magical spice blend, but there’s actually not a single spice in them. These crackers would make for one killer graham cracker pie crust.
  • Anise biscotti from this Food52 recipe. The flavor reminds me of Italian desserts my grandmother used to make – a great walk down memory lane. I also loved how clear and simple the recipe was. Now I’m determined to grow anise next summer. (It’s easy to grow, quick to flower and thus seed, and has delicious leaves.)

In previous updates on this project, I’ve shared lessons learned from of this bread-baking. Maybe the learning curve is starting to flatten, because I have only one lesson to share this time around:

  • Don’t be afraid to second guess the recipe. Alex and I sometimes feel that we should make each recipe precisely as it’s written for at least the first go, saving experimentation for later attempts. I still think there’s value in sticking closely to the original, but sometimes you just know there’s something wrong with a recipe. For example, if it calls for combining your a yeast mix with hot liquid, don’t follow blindly or your dough won’t rise. Recipes are frequently imperfect – both in cookbooks and in blogs – so keep your head about you and share feedback when you can.

Lavender Lemonade (Naughty or Nice)

July 24, 2011

I’m a big fan of Food52, lavender, and lemonade, so there was no question that I was going to test the Lavender Lemonade Spritzer recipe in Food52’s Your Best Poolside Cocktail contest. But the recipe in question included lemonade as one of its ingredients, which is not how I do things. I seized on the opportunity to make this recipe more bottom-up by refactoring the store-bought lemonade into its constituent ingredients.

Sure, making lemonade from scratch takes more time, but look what you get out of it:

  1. Flavor. Fresh lemonade is much tastier than store-bought lemonade, and a recipe based on fresh lemonade will produce a tastier result than one based on store-bought lemonade.
  2. Nutrition. Fresh lemons have a better nutritional profile because the fruit juice you find in stores has been processed and stored for long periods of time, leading to serious nutrient degradation. This is especially but not exclusively true of juice made from concentrate.
  3. Information. There’s only so much you can know about store-bought juice. How long ago was the fruit picked? What happened to it between orchard and store? You may also neglect to take into account the information that is available, like how much sugar is in the juice.
  4. Control. Making the lemonade yourself lets you decide exactly what goes into it. How much sweetener do you want to use? Will it be sugar or a different sweetener? If sugar, will it be raw, organic, or fair trade sugar? Will you use the zest and pulp of the lemons, or will you throw them away? Will you add water to the lemonade or just add more club soda when you mix the final drink?

In this bottom-up adaptation of the recipe, I substituted for store-bought lemonade the juice, pulp, and zest of organic lemons; raw, organic, fair-trade sugar; and water. I also modified this recipe to enable customization of club soda and vodka content, adding these two ingredients to each glass instead of mixing them into the entire pitcher.

To make this bottom-up lavender lemonade, you’ll need:

  • 1 pitcher
  • 4 organic lemons
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp culinary grade lavender buds (I used lavender from my garden)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 splash of club soda per glass
  • 0-4 glugs vodka per glass (I used Grey Goose)

And here’s what you’ll do with these ingredients:

  • Add 1-2 tbsp of lemon zest to the pitcher.
  • Halve and juice your lemons into the pitcher, fishing out seeds as necessary.
  • Cut or pull pulp from the squeezed lemons and add it to the pitcher.
  • Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 3 cups of water to the pitcher.
  • Put the lavender into a saucepan with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup water.
  • Bring lavender, sugar, and water to boil, then simmer until sugar is dissolved. Let sit for 5 minutes to steep and cool.
  • Put strainer over pitcher and pour lavender/sugar/water combination through strainer into pitcher.
  • Store in refrigerator to chill.
  • Serve glass by glass, with a splash of club soda in each and either no vodka (nice) or up to 4 glugs of vodka (naughty) per serving.

I think you’ll love the results, which are equally delicious in the nice version (it doesn’t taste like anything is missing) and the naughty version (you can’t really taste the vodka).

Teff & Greens Crepes

July 19, 2011

Teff crepes are a great weekend breakfast. They’re also a great weekend lunch. Heck, I could even eat them as a weekend dinner. And I don’t mind eating them during the week, either…

Teff is an Ethiopian grain that is delicious, gluten free, and ridiculously nutrient-dense. Kind of a wonder grain. My favorite teff tale posits that teff consumption is what makes East Africans such awesome distance runners. You can read more about it here. I use Bob’s Red Mill teff, but if I ever find it in a plain old bulk bin I’ll probably switch. Bob’s Red Mill is great, but I’ve found that it’s only the cheapest option if it’s also the only option.

I like to stuff my teff crepes with other equally delicious and nutritious foods. The best combo I’ve found is kale, sunflower seeds, and a little goat cheese. Other greens work as well. Pictured below on my NYT is the mix I used this time around, all from my balcony container garden: baby spinach, baby kale, romaine, and arugula.

Here is what you’ll need to make a batch of 6 teff & green crepes, using a base crepe recipe from Mark Bittman:

  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup teff flour
  • 1 tbsp cane sugar (or less, to taste)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter plus more for cooking
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2-3 packed cups of greens, such as kale, arugula, spinach, or watercress, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 3 tbsp good goat cheese (I like Vermont Butter & Cheese)
  • A few tablespoons of powdered sugar (optional)

And here’s what you’ll do:

  • Start out by mixing the first three ingredients in a bowl with a whisk.
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and place in it the melted butter, eggs, and skim milk. Whisk the wet ingredients together and the continue whisking to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Whisk until there are no lumps.
  • Put the batter in the fridge while you make prepare the filling. Begin to heat a cast-iron skillet or other large round frying pan.
  • Combine the greens, sunflower seeds, and green in a bowl, mixing so that the cheese and seeds are evenly distributed across the greens
  • Melt 1 tbsp butter in your pan. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup, depending on the size of your pan and your desired crepes, into the pan. Immediately lift the pan to swirl the batter and make it fill up the pan.
  • Once the top of the crepe is dry, wait 10 seconds and then flip it. Then add as much filling as you think will leave room to fold the edges in on each side, usually about 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup worth.
  • Use a spatula to lift and fold down the top, bottom, left, and right of the crepe. Flip over and let cook for another 30 seconds to one minute, just to get the cheese melted and seal the edges.
  • Sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar on top. This is optional, but I find powdered sugar makes the taste of these crepes pop much as salt does with other foods.
  • Repeat to make all six crepes.

In all seriousness, you really can eat teff crepes during the week for breakfast, even if you’re rushing off to work. If you make the batter and the filling the night before and leave it in the fridge, you can pull most of the required steps into your evening.  If you’re looking to cut even more steps, consider dropping the filling – teff crepes on their own are delicious, too.

Homemade Fettuccine

July 16, 2011

As I was researching homemade pasta, I noticed that a lot of the comments on pasta-making blogs went something like this: “Thanks for posting this.  I got a pasta maker as a wedding present, but I have never gotten around to using it. Now I’m inspired to try it out.” It seems as though there may be hundreds or or even thousands of pasta makers sitting out there gathering dust, never getting a chance to strut its pasta-making stuff. This is very sad.

In the meantime, we’ve tried making pasta without a pasta maker.* Our findings? Pasta makers aren’t really necessary. So this raises the question: Is the primary purpose of pasta makers just to fill up wedding registries? Hmmm…

Anyway, there isn’t really much to pasta dough; it’s just eggs and flour:

  • 2 cups of white flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

However, lots of work is required to turn these few ingredients into fettuccine.

  • Whisk flour and salt together. Form well in the middle. Crack eggs into well. Use a fork to whisk eggs together and then slowly begin incorporating the flour into your whisking, continuing until you have a messy ball of dough.
  • Tip dough out onto floured counter and knead until it is completely smooth and pretty springy. This takes about 10 minutes. Don’t shortchange the kneading, or your pasta won’t work.
  • Roll the dough out into a long rectangle, getting it as thin as you possibly can without making it so thin that when you pick it up it falls apart.
  • Flour both sides of the dough, then pull the top 2/3 down past the bottom 1/3, then pull what is now the bottom 1/3 back on top of the original 1/3. Put this on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut the dough into thin strips the desired width of your fettuccine. Unravel each strip.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Drop the fettuccine in and cook for just 2 minutes.

We served our pasta with a pesto we made using 2 tbsp pine nuts, 2 cloves garlic, two handfuls of mixed greens from our container garden (mostly green and purple basil but also parsley and arugula), salt, pepper, and of course olive oil.

The pasta looked a bit thick, but it tasted quite light. Honestly, it was great. I generally avoid pasta, having been overserved spaghetti and meatballs as a kid. But fresh pasta tastes completely different, and I’m definitely going to making a lot of it in the future. Homemade pasta is worlds better than boxed dry pasta, and quite a lot better than the fresh pasta we’ve bought at specialty shops, too. It’s also quite a lot cheaper than buying fresh pasta, and really not that much work.

So now we know that we don’t NEED a pasta maker. But do we want one? A pasta maker would improve the consistency of our pasta; some strands were thicker than others, both in height and width. But a pasta maker would also mean more equipment to clean, and that would be a deterrent to making pasta. Alex is pro pasta maker, but I’m now con. Would love to hear from those of you who have made pasta both by hand and with a machine on whether the machine is worth the hassle.

Also, check out this pastafarian.

*When I say “we,” I really mean “Alex.” Nearly all the work in July blog posts has been done by Alex, since I am currently on the disabled list.

Homemade Crackers

July 14, 2011

Of all the foods people typically buy pre-made, crackers must be the absolute easiest to make at home. A single batch of crackers takes about 10 minutes, and the only “must have” ingredients are flour, oil or butter, and water. The resulting cracker is a bit of a blank canvas; I outline below four ways you can approach filling it in with flavor.

This simple base is adapted from recipes by Mark Bittman (in the NYT and in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) and Heidi Swanson (on You’ll need:

  • 1 cup semolina flour (you can substitute white flour)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (you can substitute white flour)
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 3 1/2 tbsp olive oil (you can substitute butter)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Seasonings (see below)

You’ll notice that nowhere on this list do any undesirable ingredients appear – nothing artificial, nothing unethical. I didn’t realize this was much of an issue until I realized that my normal crackers use palm oil; click here for more on why that’s a big deal.

In any case, these ingredients are a snap to pull together.

Here’s how to make the base:

  • Preheat the oven to 450F.
  • Combine all of the dry ingredients either in a bowl or in a food processor
  • Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine
  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 5 minutes
  • Divide the dough into 4 pieces, roll each into a ball, cover and let rest for 30 minutes

And now, for the seasonings. You can of course season these crackers however you like. For me, there are three ways to approach this:

  1. The neutral cracker. Some folks prefer their crackers to stay quiet and let whatever it is they’re eating it with do all the talking. This makes a lot of sense if you don’t know in advance how you’ll be serving your crackers. For a neutral cracker, either skip seasonings altogether or stick to a dusting of fresh grated Parmesan with a bit of salt and pepper.
  2. The sweet cracker. If you want your crackers to be snacks in and of their own right, try making them sweet. Cinnamon and sugar is an obvious choice, but I like ground ginger and sugar. Alternately, try anise extract in the dough with anise seeds sprinkled on top.
  3. The herbed cracker. This type of cracker pairs well with cheeses. Just grab a mix of fresh or dried herbs like parsley, oregano, thyme, and chives and then incorporate them into your dough.
  4. The seeded cracker. Seeded crackers are also great with cheese. I’ve had success using a blend of 50% white and black sesame seed and 50% an equal mixture of fennel, dill, cumin, and caraway. Seeds should go in your dough and on top. It’s hard to keep the seeds on top from falling off, but if you have the in your dough as well you’re assured some seed flavor.

Here’s how to incorporate the seasonings and finish these crackers off:

  • If incorporating seasonings into one of the balls of dough, do so by rolling it out a bit, sprinkling the seasoning evenly across it, folding it up a few times, and rolling it out again, repeating as necessary.
  • Roll the ball out to about 1/4 inch. And no, you don’t need a pasta maker to do this; a rolling pin works just fine.
  • If adding seasonings on top, lightly spray the rolled out dough with water. Sprinkle the seasonings as evenly as possible, being careful not to neglect the edges, and then rub them in with your hands.
  • Continue to roll the dough out until it is as thin as you can get it while still being able to pick it up.
  • Transfer the dough to a pizza stone (strongly preferred) or floured backing sheet.
  • Use a large knife to score dough where you want to break it into pieces. You’ll need to score so deeply that you nearly cut all the way through.
  • Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch while baking, as the crackers can go from done to overdone in about 30 seconds.
  • Remove from baking surface and let cool before breaking.
  • Repeat with the remaining 3 balls of dough, potentially changing the topping you use for each.

The dough refrigerates and freezes extremely well, so feel free to set some of the dough aside for later.You can also easily halve or double the recipe.