Monday

October 23rd, 2017

The Kosher Gourmet

One flexible dough, so many possibilities to customize flavors, toppings and glazes for these easy homemade crackers

Cathy Barrow

By Cathy Barrow The Washington Post

Published Nov. 7, 2016

One flexible dough, so many possibilities to customize flavors, toppings and glazes for these easy homemade crackers Washington Post photo by Goran Kosanovic
We're heading into the days and weeks and weekends of celebrations between now and next year. Whether we gather with fellow fans to watch football, visit around fire pits with out-of-towners or invite the new neighbors to share a pot of chili, a sure-to-please contribution for any get-together is cheese and crackers.

Not just any crackers. When they're homemade, you can customize their flavors, toppings and glazes. And if your cupboard happens to be a repository for assorted bags of interesting flours, such as oat and rye, your cracker game will be strong.

A simple dough - a flexible ratio of flour, fat and liquid with numerous flavorful possibilities - and an equally direct process - just roll, cut and bake - make the accompanying recipes a breeze. Keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to three days, or, for a long-range plan, stash a dozen dough combinations in the freezer for the weeks ahead.

Homemade crackers deserve a superb cheese. Just about all the advice about composing cheese platters suggests varying the selection to include cow's-, sheep's- and goat's-milk cheeses, and soft, ripened, sharp, sliceable, crumbly and tangy options. If that seems like altogether too many choices, focus instead on one really spectacular offering.

At Via Umbria in the Georgetown neighborhood in D.C., cheesemonger Alice Bergen Phillips says complex cheese platters work for large gatherings. But for a small group, a single cheese - with your snazzy crackers - just makes sense.

"Easiest appetizer in the world. You just have to unwrap it," she says.

Of course, there are treasures to be found in the grocery store cheese department, too. And, frankly, that's when those homemade crackers come in handiest. Think pimento cheese. Goat cheese. A wedge of blue.

With a basket of your crackers in hand, you need only follow these cheese rules:
Shop for the cheese a day before, or as early as possible the day of, the party.
Leave the cheese unwrapped on the platter to come to room temperature.
Round out the platter with olives, nuts, dried fruit, savory jam, membrillo (quince paste).
Borrow a page from food stylists, and decorate the platter with herbs, leaves or flowers.


ONION RYE CRACKERS

MAKES 18 to 36 crackers

Delicious with a smear of mustard and a nugget of Gruyere or slice of salami, this sturdy cracker is grain-rich and flavorful, with a salty glaze.

MAKE AHEAD: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to overnight; it can be frozen for up to 1 month. (Defrost it overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.) The cut cracker dough needs to be refrigerated for 20 minutes. The crackers can be stored between layers of wax paper in an airtight tin for up to 5 days.

Ingredients


  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) rye flour

  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted margarine, cubed

  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried onion flakes

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed

  • Heaping 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Steps

Combine the flours and cold butter in a food processor; pulse until crumbly. (Alternatively, use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour.) Stir in the onion flakes, caraway seed, baking powder and salt.

Generously flour a work surface. Turn the dough out there and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Gather it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (You'll be using the floured work space again to roll out the dough.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap the dough and let it sit at room temperature for no more than 10 minutes (when pressed with a finger, the dough should hold the indent); re-flour the work space as needed.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle that's slightly larger than 9 by 18 inches, then trim to straighten the edges as needed.

Use a sharp knife, a cookie cutter or a fluted wheel to cut out the crackers as you like (18 to 36 pieces total). Pierce the dough with the tines of a fork. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the pieces of dough 1/2 inch apart. (They will not spread.) The scraps may be re-rolled two times. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush each cracker with some of the soy sauce.

Bake (lower rack) for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp, rotating the pan front to back halfway through. Transfer the crackers to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Nutrition | Per cracker (based on 36): 20 calories, 0 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 35 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar


SESAME OAT CRACKERS

MAKES 18 to 36 crackers

With the earthy flavor of sesame seeds and the sweet overtones of oat flour, these delicate crackers partner nicely with a generous dab of pimento cheese.

MAKE AHEAD: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to overnight; it can be frozen for up to 1 month. (Defrost it overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.) The cut-cracker dough needs to be refrigerated for 20 minutes. The crackers can be stored between layers of wax paper in an airtight tin for up to 5 days.

Ingredients


  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) oat flour

  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

  • Heaping 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt

  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds

Steps

Combine the flours and cold butter in a food processor; pulse until crumbly. (Alternatively, use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour.) Stir in the baking powder and salt until incorporated, then stir in the yogurt and sesame seeds.

Generously flour a work surface. Turn the dough out there and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Gather it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (You'll be using the floured work space again to roll out the dough.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap the dough and let it sit at room temperature for no more than 10 minutes (when pressed with a finger, the dough should hold the indent); re-flour the work space as needed.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle that's slightly larger than 9 by 18 inches, then trim to straighten the edges as needed.

Use a sharp knife, a cookie cutter or a fluted wheel to cut out the crackers as you like (18 to 36 pieces total). Pierce the dough with the tines of a fork. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the pieces of dough 1/2 inch apart. (They will not spread.) The scraps may be re-rolled two times. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake (lower rack) for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp, rotating the pan front to back halfway through. Transfer the crackers to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Nutrition | Per cracker (based on 36): 30 calories, 0 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

TOGARASHI WHEAT CRACKERS

Spicy, seedy and a suitable base for a swipe of young goat cheese, these crackers take advantage of the popular Japanese chili spice mix.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to overnight; it can be frozen for up to 1 month. (Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.) The cut cracker dough needs to be refrigerated for 20 minutes. The crackers can be stored between layers of wax paper in an airtight tin for up to 5 days.

Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese blend of spices and sometimes seeds that adds a peppery heat.

MAKES 18-36 crackers

Ingredients


  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) whole-wheat flour

  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

  • Heaping 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/3 cup regular plain yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 1 teaspoon hot water

  • 1/4 cup shichimi togarashi seed mixture (see headnote)

Directions

Combine the flours and butter in a food processor; pulse until crumbly. (Alternatively, use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour.) Stir in the baking powder and salt until incorporated, then stir in the yogurt.

Generously flour a work surface. Turn the dough out there and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Gather it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (You'll be using the floured work space again to roll out the dough.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap the dough and let it sit at room temperature for no more than 10 minutes (when pressed with a finger, the dough should hold the indent); re-flour the work space as needed.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle that's slightly larger than 9 by 18 inches, then trim to straighten the edges as needed.

Use a sharp knife, a cookie cutter or a fluted wheel to cut out the crackers as you like (18 to 36 pieces total). Pierce the dough with the tines of a fork. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the pieces of cracker dough 1/2 inch apart. (They will not spread.) The scraps may be re-rolled two times. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the maple syrup and hot water in a small bowl.

Brush each cracker with the maple syrup mixture, then sprinkle lightly with the togarashi seasoning. Bake (lower rack) for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp, rotating the pan front to back halfway through. Transfer the crackers to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Nutrition | Calories per cracker (based on 36): 25

% Daily Values

Total Fat: 1g 2%

Saturated Fat: 1g 5%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 15mg 1%

Total Carbohydrates: 3g 1%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 0g

Protein: 0g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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