Grain Brains Challenge
A recipe challenge to help you get whole grains into your mouth, not just your kitchen.
Seems like I’m always finding a way to make something that should be simple very complicated. Amy (Halloran) and I have been tossing around cracker ideas and she sent me several that sounded delicious, and super simple. Of course that would never do. Instead I ventured into virgin territory and came up with my own very complicated cracker. Complicated only because it involves cutting in the delicious cold bits of butter until it makes a fine crumb. Complicated in that you knead the dough several times to layer the flour and butter. And complicated only in that you roll them out very thin, cut them into perfect little rounds, and prick them with a fork to keep the surface from bubbling. Otherwise they were a cinch. They are a bit like a very refined Stoned Wheat Thin. One of my friends said it reminded her of a British oat biscuit. I took them around to my neighbors for a test drive and got e-mails from everyone asking for more. They were super tasty because of all the butter and the layering. But the flour I used was also fantastic. Grown by Richard Giles who runs Lucky Dog Farms up in Hamden New York, the flour is made from one of the heirloom wheats being reintroduced to the state called Arapahoe.
Lucky for me he has a country store in Hamden within driving distance from my house. It is worth seeking out. He sells lots of other great organic grains at the store, too.
While I joke about making everything complicated, these crackers are really worth the effort. I plan to make them a lot this summer.
RECIPE: WHOLE WHEAT CRACKERS
- 1 1/4 cup organic whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, finely ground
- 3 tablespoons cold butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup water
Combine dry ingredients in stand mixer on medium speed (or food processor). Cut cold butter into small pats. Add 1 pat at a time to dry ingredients, letting each piece break up slightly before adding the next. Once the butter has been incorporated and the mix looks like crumbs, add the olive oil. Let mix for a minute, then add the water a little at a time. Once everything is combined it should come together into a ball.
Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface. Roll the dough to flatten slightly. Now fold the dough in half and knead. Fold again and knead. Continue this about twenty times (I used my pasta attachment on the stand mixer to knead the dough. You can also do it by hand.) Once the dough is kneaded, set your pasta machine four notches from the thinnest setting. Continue folding the dough in half and roll it through the machine. After about 12 times, reduce the setting by one notch and roll it through. Finally, reduce to the next to thinnest setting and fold and knead once or twice. Place the sheet of dough on the floured work surface and cut the crackers. I used a round cutter but any shape will do. Triangles, squares, or strips are all great cracker shapes. Transfer the cut dough to a Silpat on a cookie sheet (or a parchment lined cookie sheet). Using a fork, poke three sets of holes in each cookie so they don’t bubble up when they bake. Place in 400 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. They are done when they are a nice golden color.
You can add a topping to the crackers just before baking. Just sprinkle the ingredient on the raw dough and pat slightly with your fingers to adhere. I tried sea salt, cracked pepper, Parmesan cheese, and sesame seeds. They all came out great.
Coincidentally, I interviewed Richard about his grain growing right as we decided to undertake our cracker challenge, so when I tried this recipe I used his wheat, too. (Here is a story I wrote about his vegetable farm, which has just started harvesting and selling grains and flour.)
I did not, however, open the pasta maker someone gave me and I’ve never used. I just rolled out the crackers thin, didn’t poke them, and they came out just fine. So get cracking!