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Seeded Crackers

Seeded Crackers
These crisp, homemade crackers can be completely altered by using different spices and herbs (see suggestions at the end of the recipe). Once you make the dough, you can roll it out, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and freeze the sheets for up to 1 month. When you are ready for fresh crackers, just bake the frozen sheet for 20 minutes. They are excellent served as part of a cheese course with a variety of different cheeses or alongside a steaming bowl of homemade soup.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbs. solid vegetable shortening, at room
     temperature
  • 1 Tbs. cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more, if needed

Directions:

To make the dough by hand, in a small bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and poppy, sesame and mustard seeds. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the shortening and butter until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. Pour in the 1/2 cup cream and mix with a fork until a rough mass forms.

To make the dough with a food processor, in the bowl of the processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and poppy, sesame and mustard seeds and pulse 1 or 2 times to mix. Add the shortening and butter and pulse 7 to 10 times until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. Pour in the 1/2 cup cream and pulse a few times until the dough comes together in a rough mass.

Using a plastic pastry scraper, scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface and gently squeeze it together. Add a few more drops of cream if the dough will not hold a soft shape. Gently press the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes or for up to 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line 2 half-sheet pans or rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough disk and place on a lightly floured work surface. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut the dough in half. Roll out one half of the dough into a rectangular sheet as thin as possible without tearing, dusting it with flour as needed to prevent sticking to either the work surface or the rolling pin. Trim the edges of the dough to fit the prepared pan, then carefully transfer the dough to the pan. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Alternatively, using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the sheets of dough into shapes and place on the pans.

Bake 1 sheet of crackers at a time until they are crisp and brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely until crisp. If you have baked the dough in sheets, break each sheet into shards. The crackers are best when eaten fresh, but they may be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes about 30 small crackers.

Variations:

Lemon-Thyme Crackers
Omit the poppy, sesame and mustard seeds. Add the finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme with the pepper.

Oregano-Parmesan Crackers
Omit the poppy, sesame and mustard seeds. Add 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano and 2 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with the pepper.

Spicy Jack Cheese Crackers
Omit the pepper, poppy and sesame seeds. Add 1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. paprika and 2 Tbs. grated dry jack cheese with the mustard seeds.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking, by Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans & Lou Seibert Pappas (Oxmoor House, 2003).