Homemade Crackers Need More Respect
They're fast, they're easy, they're delicious. Why not make them at home?
You can buy bread, but plenty of home bakers make it themselves anyway. You can buy cakes in the freezer aisle, but the demand for from-scratch recipes folks can make at home isn't nothing—just ask Rose Levy Beranbaum. Cookies, pies, cobblers: all well within the repertoire of many American home bakers.
Beyond Flour: The Basic Bread-Baking Pantry Ingredients
Homemade crackers, though? They're the red-headed stepchild of this family. Overlooked. Forgotten. Meanwhile, they're almost devastatingly easy to make. And, not for nothing, they're delicious.
Let's talk about how easy. I gave my recipe for crackers to Epi's food director, Rhoda Boone, thinking that it could fall under our rubric of 3-Ingredient Recipes. The recipe, which I learned in a restaurant where I used to work, is made with whole wheat flour, water, oil, salt, and a seed of one's choice to sprinkle on top, like fennel. There was a problem here, though. In 3-Ingredient Recipes, salt, oil, and water are gimmes; they don't even count. So this recipe fell short, rising only to the level of a 2-Ingredient Recipe. It was too basic to be a 3-Ingredient Recipe.
Rhoda suggested adding a little honey, a wise idea—it softens the flavors, rounds them out. And it brings the crackers into the community of respectable 3-Ingredient Recipes. Putting them together is a cinch, too. Place the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse it once or twice to mix. (Another thing this recipe does is celebrate whole wheat flour, which adds a wonderful sweetness here. If you can get some good, locally milled stuff, it'd be worth seeking out.) Combine water and a little olive oil—it lends tenderness—and, with the machine running, pour this mixture into the flour. In a couple of seconds it should come together in a ball around the blade of the processor. You've just made cracker dough.
All that's left now is to roll that dough out—pretty thin, around a quarter of an inch or less—and cut it with a pizza cutter into squares or diamonds. And to decide what kinds of seeds should go on top: fennel is great, sesame is more subtle, cumin is definitely not a terrible idea. I like to use a spray bottle filled with water to dampen the top of the dough before sprinkling the seeds on, because it helps them stick; alternately, use a pastry brush to brush a little water on them. Bake in a fairly hot oven about 20 minutes, until they're crisp.
And then? I guess it's time to go cheese shopping.
In Epi's 3-Ingredient Recipes series, we show you how to make great food with just three ingredients (plus staples like oil, salt, and pepper).
A quick spin in the food processor is all it takes to mix up these rustic whole-wheat crackers. The fennel seeds on top of them can be swapped out for caraway, sesame, flax, or any other seeds of your choosing.
Makes about 48 crackers
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp fennel, sesame, and/or caraway seeds
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Pulse flour and 1 tsp. salt in a food processor to combine. Stir oil, honey, and 2/3 cup water in a liquid measuring cup. With motor running, add oil mixture to dry ingredients and continue to pulse until a ball of dough forms around blade.
- Turn dough out onto a work surface. Divide in half. Cover one half with a moistened towel, then roll remaining half into a rough 15x10" rectangle. Repeat with second half. Transfer each to a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a pizza cutter or sharp paring knife, trim ragged edges. Cut each rectangle into 24 (6x4") pieces.
- Fill a spray bottle with water and mist top of dough (or use a pastry brush to brush water on dough). Sprinkle with seeds and more salt. With your hands, press down lightly on dough to adhere seeds.
- Bake crackers, rotating sheets halfway through and checking for doneness frequently toward end of baking time (they can quickly brown), until slightly brown and crunchy, 15–18 minutes. Let cool (they'll crisp up) before serving.