Thursday, April 1, 2010

Soda Crackers and the Mystery of Links

I have a serious link problem. I collect recipe links in three places: my iPod (recently updated to full-fledged iPhone), the little Netbook, which is my new kitchen friend, and the "big computer" which is up in the attic. I read so many different blogs, and find ideas in so many places, that the link list is seriously out of control. This is the same digital clutter that is taking over my hard drive in the form of food photos, and it's almost something I don't know how to tackle.

The digital age has presented a whole host of problems for people who love to cook. A decade ago, I had real clutter. Towers of paper clutter in the guise of magazine recipes that were too great to discard. Sometimes I cut the pages into smaller sizes, just the recipe, so that more of them were floating around until making their way into semi-organized manila envelopes, and some that were whole issues of magazines - too chock full of ideas to toss away. One good thing about moving occasionally is that I can take stock of real clutter and ditch it without thinking twice because suddenly a few crates full of "must make" recipes seems too heavy to be carrying up and down rental apartment stairs, into moving vehicles, and off to new, clean and uncluttered spaces.

The digital age enables me to mysteriously, and secretively, collect and earmark things that I have to make. Sure I don't have the physical clutter, but since there is just so much information around and so many people making amazing things, sadly many recipes go forgotten under the weight of the bookmarking itself.

Recently, I've actually been pretty successful in my attempts to stop bookmarking. Things look good to me as I'm perusing around, but I mentally note it (unless it is something too good to pass up, and that does happen) instead of adding another folder to the favorites. I do have a preternatural ability to remember such facts about which Merguez sausage recipe I wanted to try (this one from Sassy Radish) and which baked donuts I need an excuse to try (these applesauce ones from Twin Tables), just two of many examples.

Lately, I've tried to stick to making things as I find them, which is what happened when I read this post from King Arthur Flour's Baking Banter blog the other day. I got done reading, and promptly mixed up some dough. I love finding recipes for things that are kind of ordinary, but that most of us don't think of making for ourselves. Crackers are certainly on the top of that list, and it's a shame since homemade are always better, even if they aren't perfect.

I find King Arthur Flour recipes to be pretty fail-safe. They run an extremely well thought out test kitchen, in my opinion, and even have help lines for you to call. People this passionate about home baking are always going to be tops in my book.

This original recipe called for Italian-Style flour, which of course is not normally stocked in my well-stocked flours. I may have ample amounts of semolina, AP, white whole wheat, whole wheat, coarse corn meal, buckwheat, bread flour and all manners of coarse brans, but Italian-Style escapes me. I have a cart going on the King Arthur website (I need this to make innBrooklyn's pancake mix, and this to mix quickbreads with since I've wanted it for a really long time), so I think I'll order a bit of Italian flour and make these according to their published recipe. My version was good, and passable as a cracker, though perhaps not as a soda cracker which is their intended purpose.

Sometimes I think it's a sickness I have that I just can not follow instructions! Usually I have pretty good luck, and these were no exception. The dough is mixed and rested in the refrigerator for 18 hours (or more than 24 in my case, since I was gone for part of the day today), and then rolled thin. Echoing the methods used in puff pastry making, the dough is folded in thirds, and re-rolled thinly which creates layers in the finished cracker. Letting the cracker cool on the sheet pans in the oven adds crispness:

I like to keep things fairly uniform, but detest waste, so I baked up the little ends separately to have little "avant garde" crackers:

In fact, I may use my same (altered) recipe again and make the pieces smaller. They got very crunchy due to their diminutive size, and they were very addicting.

If you too are lacking in Italian flour, you can give the Rcakewalk version a try while you are waiting for your King Arthur Flour order!

Part Wheat Soda Crackers (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (KAF)
  • 1 c. AP flour (KAF)
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 6 T. water
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
Mix the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Heat the water with butter and oil until the butter melts, then let it cool until the mixture is about 120 degrees (they mention that it should feel a little cooler than your hottest tap water). Add the liquid to the dry ingredients while mixer is on low. Once the liquid is added, increase speed to medium and beat about 90 seconds until a soft, smooth dough is formed. Put into a lidded container, and refrigerate "overnight and up to 18 hours". The dough will not rise too much, so you can use a smaller container.

Remove dough from fridge, and let sit for 15 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees, and line 2 sheet pans with parchment.

On a well floured surface, roll dough to about a 13x15 inch rectangle. Starting with the shorter side fold in thirds (like a letter) and roll again to about an 11x19 rectangle. Sprinkle with salt of your choice (after yesterday's post in which I ranted about salt usage, I used just a light sprinkle of kosher salt), and lightly roll over it with the rolling pin to press it into the dough. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut into 2 inch squares and transfer to the waiting sheet pans. Poke each one a few times with the tines of a fork.

Bake for 10 minutes, maybe a shade longer, until the crackers are golden brown. Turn off the oven, and open the door wide, and let them cool on the racks until they come to room temperature. I'm thinking this would be a good project for when the weather is a bit chilly, but you don't have the heat on, since it will make your kitchen nice and warm (but perhaps a bit hazardous for small children).

I did follow the instructions from the original recipe, accidentally increasing the cold rest time since I was gone. The only difference, is that since there is higher protein content in the flours I used, the dough was much more difficult to roll out. On closer evaluation, I think I could have increased the water by a Tablespoon or so, since I used the wheat flour. This is definitely a work in progress, so if you do take up the challenge, I hope you will report back to me!

Please be sure to check out the tutorial and the original recipe over at Baker's Banter. If ever you need just one more blog to follow (and you love to bake) it is a great resource! Meanwhile, I'm mentally adding up all the things I'd like to try, and adding another lifetime to the 8 I already need to accomplish what I'd like to get done. Recipes like the one above confirm to me that I really would love to have a home-based test kitchen... one properly stocked with the right ingredients (and while I'm daydreaming, one with 3 foot deep, concrete countertops, and an extra well-lit counter for photographing!). I'll try to remember to let you know how the original recipe turns out when my flour shows up...


  1. Ha! And me? Yeah, I've got the bookmarks. And the electronic files. But, I still have those towering piles of papers and magazines. Cuz I'm a tactile kindofa girl, I guess.

    Those little avant garde guys are my favorites. They'd be awesome tossed into soup. Or seasoned with wacky spice combinations and eaten in lieu of nastier snacks :)

  2. As usual, I am beyond impressed at the culinary challenges you take on! Oh these snack crackers look amazing!

  3. Oh no! I have so many bookmarks its driving me crazy. But the one time I don't bookmark a recipe, I forget where I saw a recipe, and I'm totally ocd until I find it. Yike! Good problems to have I guess. These crackers sound really good. I bet they're a heck of a lot better that store bought.


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...