Sunday, January 3, 2016
I always have great intentions of posting a recipe that would be great for the holidays prior to the holidays, and this recipe is great for entertaining, but is there really a season for crackers? Not at my house.
Crackers are definitely one of my vices in terms of processed foods. I try to find ones that are "more healthy" ... low in sugar and have some fiber, but generally rationalize that I'm eating crackers with a big salad and that's OK.. Except when I'm having them with a nice piece of cheese. It's a slippery slope.
And my favorite crackers are Rainforest Crisps. They make a bunch of flavors, but the I go for the Original ones. A little sweet, but not too bad, with lots of nuts and seeds. The only problem is that they are $7 or $8 a package (and this is a 6 ounce package), and that you can only get them at places like Whole Foods or specialty stores. And they go stale in about a week. It's one thing to pay a lot for sustainably raised meat, but for crackers?? This just seems like highway robbery.
Then I found a bunch of "copycat" recipes on the web for these crackers. Could it be? Let me say there are a lot of them out there (see here for my inspiration). Most of them are similar... it's basically a soda bread that you bake, then slice, then bake again. (which reminds me, someday I need to find out if I can make good crackers from my Soda Bread when I have leftovers). There are variations in how much brown sugar and/or honey used, plus a lot of variations in different add-ins (nuts, seeds, dried fruit). I tailored the recipe to the nuts and seeds I usually have around, skipped the honey, and have discovered that (like my soda bread) yogurt can be interchanged with buttermilk.
The only hard part about making these is making very even, very thin slices. It helps to refrigerate the loaves to get them to firm up. Also, this recipe makes a lot of crackers (and like the ones from the store, they do lose their crisp pretty quickly). But, you can freeze the loaves (the recipe makes 4 loaves, each loaf makes about the same amount as a package of crackers), then just slice and do the second bake when you are ready for some great crackers!
And the best part, each loaf costs about $1 to make. One note.. If you use sesame seeds, buy them in 1 lb packages, NOT in the spice aisle at your local grocery store. Places like Whole Foods or Asian markets have them, they are priced similar to other nuts. They will keep forever in the freezer.
And Happy New Years!
Crisp Seed Crackers
Makes over 8 dozen crackers.
1 cup flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk or yogurt
1/3 cup brown sugar (or a little less)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitos)
1/4 cup sesame seeds or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or slivered almonds, roasted if desired)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray 4 mini-loaf pans with non-stick spray.
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk (or yogurt) and brown sugar, then mix with spoon until combined. Add the seeds and nuts, stir until blended.
Divide batter evenly between loaf pans. Bake 20 – 25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack. When cool, wrap loaves and put into the refrigerator (this is an optional step, but it makes them easier to slice). You may also freeze loaves that you don’t plan to bake soon.
To make the crackers: If loaves have been frozen, let them sit out for a half hour or so. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a large sheet pan (one mini-loaf fills one sheet pan).
Slice the loaves as thin as you can with a serrated knife. Place the slices in a single layer on sheet pan. Bake them for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 5 - 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden. Remove slices as they get done, the thinner slices will bake faster than the thicker ones. Cool on rack. Store airtight, they will lose their “crisp” in a week or so.