We have been wandering in the desert of home wheat production for three years now. We could see the mountaintop, but were not sure we could get there. Although it is not that hard to grow wheat, harvesting, threshing and milling all present real technical problems to overcome for home growers.
We learned how to scythe, then decided to cut the stalks with sharp knives instead of scything in order to keep our bundles more orderly for threshing (you probably couldn’t do that if you grew 500 acres, but a lawn full of wheat is manageable). Then we tried bashing our wheat on the ground to thresh it, followed by flailing, followed by pillow case threshing until we arrived at a home made wheat thresher that works for us. In the first year we had someone else grind our meager wheat harvest into flour, followed by an attempt to use our hand cranked stone grinder that left granite sand in our bread. We bit the bullet and spent $180 on a table top electric grinder. We have arrived as wheat growers! We can now grow it, harvest it, thresh it, winnow it and grind it into flour.
Hard wheat is traditional bread wheat, having to do with its gluten content. So of course we grew mostly soft wheat which is used for making crackers, something we barely ever eat or think about. Although we are pretty good at bread baking, our crackers have been unsatisfactory. Now we think we have broken the cracker barrier and arrived not only at something edible, but at something we actually like to eat.
HOME GROWN WHOLE WHEAT SESAME CRACKERS
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 Tbs. sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cool water
- In a large bowl, mix 2 cups whole wheat flour with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon baking powder, 3 tablespoons sesame seeds.
- Add ¼ cup olive oil and ¾ cup cool water. Mix with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated and the dough can be formed into a ball.
- Let the dough rest for one half hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut enough parchment paper to cover three cookie sheets. Place the parchment paper on a flat surface and sprinkle sesame seeds on the surface, plus a little salt (we use Seneca Lake flake salt because it is cool and made in New York).
- Coat the dough with a little more flour so it isn’t sticky. Pinch a walnut sized piece of dough from the ball of dough and coat any sticky ends with flour. Flatten it slightly and feed it through a pasta machine at the thickest setting. Do this a couple of times if needed to get an oblong flat-bread-like object, then go down to the next thickest setting and feed it through again. Thinness is the key to satisfactory crackers it turns out.
- Place the unbaked crackers on top of the parchment paper; they should not be touching but can be crowded. When the paper is full, lift it gently onto a cookie tray and sprinkle the tops of the crackers with sesame seeds (we like black ones because they are pretty) and a small amount of salt or pepper if you want. A little salt makes the crackers more delicious. Too much salt makes them inedible. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to gently set the sesame seeds in the dough.
- Bake the crackers for 8 minutes, turn each of them over, bake for 8 more minutes, or until lightly browned and no longer rubbery
- You can also try rolling a larger piece of dough out of parchment paper with a floured rolling pin but it takes real patience to get it thin and uniform enough. If you use a rolling pin, lift the sheet of dough on its parchment onto a cookie tray and cut it into squares before baking it. Bake it for around 15 minutes. Break it apart after it is baked and cooled.
- Dry on racks. Makes around 3 dozen oblong, irregular crackers, depending on size.