Article and photos by Lisa Crockett
I was recently gifted a beautiful block of artisanal cheddar cheese. I nibbled a corner and decided that what I really needed to complement this gift was a nice crunchy cracker that had the freshness and heft to match the sharp yet creamy flavor of the cheese. My pantry didn’t have anything quite right, and a trip to the store was similarly fruitless, so I decided I’d give cracker making a whirl. It was an experiment that had a high probability of failure, but sometimes my curiosity is greater than my common sense and I had an afternoon to spend, so I took a shot.
It turns out that cracker making is simple and fast, and in less than an hour I had a substantial pile of crackers that were fresh and delicious. Using just a small handful of ingredients, I made something worthy of a fancy cheeseboard for mere pennies. To make matters even better, crackers like this are infinitely adaptable, so when that tasty block of cheddar is gone, I can make a different kind of cracker to go along with a creamy Brie, a crispy salad, or a soothing bowl of tomato soup.
There are very few tricks to cracker making. Flour, sugar, salt, oil and water are combined into a simple dough, allowed to rest for just a bit, rolled out, and topped with whatever seems tasty. The key is rolling the dough thin and baking at a high temperature to get crackers that are crispy not chewy. Toppings run the gamut, but I like sesame seeds when I’m pairing them with cheese. For crackers that will star as the main attraction, poppy seeds or fresh herbs make tasty choices.
Getting an exactly even thickness is a laudable goal for these crackers, because it will allow them to get toasty brown all at once in the oven, but human error is a real possibility in any kitchen. So in the event that your crackers aren’t exactly uniform, station yourself at the oven and simply take crackers off the baking tray as they are done, and then return the rest of the batch to the oven for a few more minutes. Same goes for cracker size and shape – if you want crackers that look commercially produced, you can measure them with a ruler or even use a cookie or biscuit cutter, but I’m personally fond of the rustic look of crackers that vary a bit in size and shape and I enjoy the speed of simply rolling out the dough and using a knife to cut the crackers into rectangles with no scraps left over to re-roll and shape.
The last thing to remember is that if you’re sharing these crackers with other people, you’ll want to consider making a double batch. Fresh from the oven, these gems are infinitely snackable and will disappear quickly, particularly if they’re paired with something else tasty like cheese or tapenade. If you should happen to have any left over, they’ll last in an airtight container for a day or two, though they may lose a bit of their crispness over time.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup water
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and sugar, then add the water and the oil and mix together with your hands until a soft, sticky dough forms. If the dough is dry or unincorporated flour remains, add a teaspoon or so of water. Once the dough is formed, allow it to rest in the mixing bowl for 10 minutes. Then, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a pizza cutter, or sharp knife, cut the dough into rectangles about 1 ½ inches by 2 inches and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush crackers with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Poke each cracker two or three times to prevent air bubbles. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely, and serve with your favorite cheeses or other toppings.