Friday, March 25, 2011

Seed & Fruit Crackers

I have a current addiction to seed crackers and apricot-studded stilton. Not the healthiest or cheapest addiction to have but likely better than smoking or drugs, so I guess I can take some solace in that.

The crackers that I have bought in the past are expensive so I decided that I would try to make them myself. I searched the cracker company's name and "recipe" and many recipes pop up. Most are very similar as they consist of a flour and buttermilk base with a bunch of seeds, nuts and fruit thrown in.

I followed the recipes fairly closely, with just a few minor revisions, but used what seeds, grains and dried fruit that I had on hand. (This is a great way to use up raw seeds and nuts as they tend to go stale quickly.) The results were truly amazing! Millet was also a very nice addition to the cracker as well.

A friend came over and wondered why I had put the store bought crackers in the jar. When I told her they were homemade, she immediately demanded the recipe (shared addiction).

From reading the recipe, you might think this is alot of work, but it really isn't. You can throw the dough together in five minutes. The baking takes up most of the time. Start baking them a day ahead and throw the loaves in the freezer until you are ready to cut and bake them. You will be rewarded with tons of crackers to keep and some to share for a fraction of the cost of bought crackers.

These are best spread with soft cheeses and served with a glass of wine! Time to get that stilton out...

Seed & Fruit Crackers
Makes about 100 small crackers
I am sure you could use nearly any variety of seed-nut-fruit combinations to come up with an amazing cracker using this basic formula. Do not use sugar-sweetened craisins in this as they would be much too sweet for this recipe. The most important part of the process is ensuring that your crackers are thin and uniform in size when cutting them, about 5 mm is a good size. If you have different sized crackers, try to keep them together on the pan and remove the thinner ones before they burn. If you use cooking spray, you may want to use that to ensure easy removal from the pan. I use cooking oil and they eventually come out!

2 cups unbleached flour (I've used up to half whole wheat flour successfully)
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves (crushed a bit with a mortar & pestle or chopped)
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cups raisins or dried cranberries, or a combination of both is nice
1/4 cup flax seed
1/4 cup millet or sesame seeds (similar size and texture, both can be used with good results)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (green hull ones)
2 cups buttermilk (or set aside 2 cups of milk + 2 tbsp vinegar for a few minutes, then take out 2 tbsp)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 4 mini loaf pans (smaller pans result in regular sized crackers) or 3 regular loaf pans (more rectangular in shape) with cooking spray, oil or butter and flour (most recipes recommend cooking spray).
2. Combine flours, soda, salt, rosemary & pepper in a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer.
3. Add sugar, seeds, fruit and nuts and stir to combine.
4. Add 2 cups buttermilk and stir until mixture is combined.
5. Divide batter into 4 mini loaf pans or 3 regular loaf pans and bake until cooked through, about 28-30 minutes for mini loaf pans to about 30 minutes for larger loaf pans.
6. Remove from oven, remove from pans and let cool to room temperature on a wire rack. When cool, place in freezer for ease of cutting. Freeze for at least 2 hours.
7. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. When frozen, slice loaves as thinly as possible with a serrated knife. Place in single layer on baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes-20 minutes. Rotate pans, turn over and bake for another 15-20 minutes  (the thicker they are, the more you will be closer to the 20 minute mark, keep an eye on them at the end!) Make sure the crackers turn a dark brown tone (not burnt, but more like rye bread in colour) and are entirely crisp. Let cool to room temperature and store in glass containers or mason jars.