This is my first time baking savoury crackers and I don't really know much about cracker baking. I wonder if most cracker recipes are the same or not... Nevertheless, this cracker recipe that I have baked for this post seems to be an interesting one to explore. This recipe was suggested by Lena, from Frozen wings from the book, William Sonoma, Essential of Baking or here for Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and I to bake-along.
Interesting? Unlike traditional pastry, cookies and biscuits recipes, this recipe contains only 1 tbsp of shortening and 1 tbsp of butter but uses heavy cream (I assume it is the 45% fat ones) to bind the cracker dough.
As always, my principle for baking is always a big NO NO to shortening (because of its saturated fat content) and also less fat is always good for me... LOL! Considering the fact that less fat is always good for our hearts and waistlines, can it be bad for the taste and texture of these crackers. Is this the battle between fat vs taste?... What should I do?
With this recipe, I wonder... 1) If the substitution of shortening to butter will affect the overall crispness of crackers? 2) Can normal cream with 35% fat content works well too? Let find out...
This basic crackers has suggested four different variations and they are:
1) Seeded Crackers - with poppy, sesame and mustard seeds
2) Lemon-Thyme Crackers - with lemon zest and fresh thyme
3) Oregano-Parmesan Crackers - with fresh oregano and Parmesan cheese
4) Spicy Jack Cheese Crackers - with cayenne pepper, paprika, dry jack cheese and mustard seeds
I know that my son loves to eat anything with poppy seeds or lemon and so I have chosen to bake both the seeded and the lemon-thyme variations. I was glad that I made this choice because these two different crackers has taught me something...
As I was rolling my cracker dough, I didn't know which thickness would work the best as the recipe says only "roll dough as thin as possible without tearing..." and so I rolled and rolled and rolled... hoping that my dough can be as thin as possible. It was difficult for me to roll the seeded dough as the "fat" mustard seeds embedded inside the dough resisted me from rolling further. With much persistence, I had to force, crush and flatten some mustard seeds in order to roll further and further. In contrast, it is a different story for my lemon-thyme crackers. Without the seeds, I was able to roll the dough so thin without much force and effort. Although both doughs were equal in amount and all crackers were cut to the similar size and shapes, you can clearly see the difference knowing that I can rolled out and baked only 35 seeded crackers but 50 lemon-thyme crackers in total.
After having my first bite of my crackers, I then discover the secret of baking light and crispy crackers. Being thicker, the seeded crackers are not as good and crispy as the lemon-thyme ones as the thinly rolled lemon-thyme ones snap and crunch easily in our mouths. Now back to to my question... Is this the battle between fat vs taste? No doubt that the fat content is totally essential for good cracker baking but I reckon the ultimate secret is to roll these crackers as thin as possible...
Now, who wants some homemade crackers with homemade hummus?
|Crackers and Hummus. Anyone?|
|Some of the perfect marriages in this world... and they can be found in my crackers :p|
|The crackers doughs after resting|
|Rolling them as thin as possible are good arm exercises for me!|
|We prefer the lemon thyme ones!|
|The hummus ingredients|
|Creamy but guilt-free!|
|Very addictive too with these crispy puffy crackers|
Here are the recipes (with my notes and modification in blue).
Seeded and Lemon-Thyme Crackers from the book, William Sonoma, Essential of Baking by Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans and Lou Seibert Pappas or here
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
(replaced by same amount of butter)
1 tbsp cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more, if needed
(the cream I used is not the heavy kind with 45% fat and mine contains 35% fat)
To make the dough by hand, in a small bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and poppy, sesame and mustard seeds. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the shortening and butter until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. Pour in the 1/2 cup cream and mix with a fork until a rough mass forms.
To make the dough with a food processor, in the bowl of the processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and poppy, sesame and mustard seeds and pulse 1 or 2 times to mix. Add the shortening and butter and pulse 7 to 10 times until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. Pour in the 1/2 cup cream and pulse a few times until the dough comes together in a rough mass.
Note: I have made my dough by hand.
Using a plastic pastry scraper, scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface and gently squeeze it together. Add a few more drops of cream if the dough will not hold a soft shape - I need an extra 1 tbsp of cream for half of the recipe to get the dough into a soft shape. Gently press the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for at least 20 mins or for up to 1 hr.
Preheat an oven to 350°F (or 160°C fan forced). Line 2 half-sheet pans or rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough disk and place on a lightly floured work surface. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut the dough in half. Roll out one half of the dough into a rectangular sheet as thin as possible without tearing, dusting it with flour as needed to prevent sticking to either the work surface or the rolling pin. Trim the edges of the dough to fit the prepared pan, then carefully transfer the dough to the pan. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Alternatively, using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the sheets of dough into shapes and place on the pans.
Bake 1 sheet of crackers at a time until they are crisp and brown, 12 to 15 mins (I baked mine for 13 mins). Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely until crisp. If you have baked the dough in sheets, break each sheet into shards. The crackers are best when eaten fresh, but they may be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Makes about 30 small crackers.
Note: Using half of the recipe, I can make 35 seeded crackers. Using another half of the recipe, I can make 50 lemon-thyme crackers. To make this variation for half amount of recipe, I have omit the poppy, sesame and mustard seeds and add the finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme with the pepper.
Reduced Fat Hummus from Taste.com.au
1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp water (I didn't add this)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 small garlic clove, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sweet paprika, to garnish (I didn't add this)
Place chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, water, cumin, coriander and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms. Taste and season with salt and pepper. (Add a little extra lemon juice or water if the hummus is too thick - but I didn't have to add any water)
Transfer hummus to a bowl. Sprinkle with paprika to garnish - I didn't do this. Serve with carrot and celery sticks or crackers.
Happy Baking and Happy Munching
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Please note that the linky tool for bake-along is no longer available.