Sunday, March 16, 2014

Saltine crackers - Move aside store brands, here comes the home made!

Happy Holi to all my readers who are celebrating the festival of colors! The smell of Spring is definitely in the air and flowers are already blooming and leaves showing up on all the bare tree limbs. Looking forward to a great Spring and Summer in the near future.

The only two biscuits (that is what they are called in India where I grew up) I was aware of as a kid and liked to munch on were Parle-G (sweet) and Monaco (saltine). Then came many varieties of sweet, salt and something called 50-50 :-) among other things. They were all still called biscuits - prefixed with either sweet or salt to qualify them appropriately. Then I grew up, came to the US and saw that there were unimaginable number of different types of biscuits - only they were not called biscuits because biscuits was a word reserved for the soft, leavened bread served with gravy for breakfasts. While I picked up the appropriate usage of cookies (sweet tasting) and crackers (saltine), I was still gaping open mouthed at the different brands trying to determine what was best for me and family. We are not regular consumers of either cookies or crackers, I like crackers more but haven't found many that fit my criteria of good crackers :-) except for the relatively recent discovery of some whole grain crackers I get from Costco. These are tasty without leaving a sweet after taste on the tongue and something I can bite into in between meals. DD loves it too so I don't feel very guilty bringing home the big box from Costco once in a while.
So when Swathi announced this month's baking partner's challenge, I was happy to find a cracker recipe in it suggested by Arthy. Though there were 2 recipes listed for choice, I knew immediately which one I would go after :-). I saw the recipes a couple of weeks back and made sure I had the ingredients at home and then just didn't follow up. All of a sudden it was the 15th of the month when the post was due and I had not even made the dough. So promptly asked Swathi for an extra day of extension which she very sweetly said yes to and then set out to mix my dough. Saturday morning, the dough was mixed and went into the refrigerator, I pulled it out today and made the crackers. They are very easy to make, the only caveat being the really loosey-goosey soft dough. There is no kneading or any other hard work involved but if you can manage the sticky dough, you will be in for a treat.

The best part of the whole recipe is the wonderful flavor of the crackers, No store bought cracker can compare or compete with this one on that aspect. I am sure the over night (or more) refrigeration and the slow fermentation has a lot to do with developing that strong flavor. This is not a very healthy option if you are on any special diet, it has the processed flour and some butter but if you want to bake it once in a while and take it to a party, I am sure you will have brought in a star appetizer to the table. I want to try mixing the flours next time to make it a tad bit healthier, will keep you all posted on that front.
On the note of healthy diets, I was part of a conversation Friday evening when DD was playfully complaining about her 'health freak' mom with a friend :-). We were making pizza that night and the kitchen counter was full of pizza ingredients including some pan sauteed Asparagus which may seem like a very unlikely pizza topping for most people (we like asparagus and it really goes well on the pizza). I am not sure if that was the reason her friend refused to stay for dinner or she was really full and needed to be someplace else :-). Just to make my girl feel better, I went all 'non-healthy' today and made her favorite Poori, palya and maagai combination for lunch. She thinks mom is cool today :-).

These crackers use baking soda but with the tiny amount used, I am not sure whether they qualify to be called 'Soda crackers', I will leave that to the experts. Original recipe called for cream of tartar which has been replaced with vinegar. If you are a baking enthusiast, this is a recipe you would want to try and add to your repertoire. It is really a no-fuss and not much effort recipe and so a very easy win and it makes a good snack box option for kids. Go ahead and bake a batch, pop a couple into the mouth and enjoy the taste. Keep munching on them and I will see you with more recipes next week.
What do you need to make Saltine crackers?
Makes about 35- 1X1 inch crackers
3/4 cup all purpose flour + 1/2 Tbsp for dusting
1/8 Tsp baking soda
1/8 Tsp salt
2-3 drops of vinegar
1/2 Tsp sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1.5 Tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp oil (I used canola oil)
3 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp butter
For the topping: (This is what I used today, go creative and use herbs/spices of choice)
1/2 Tsp coarse salt
1 Tsp dry rosemary
How do you make Saltine crackers? 
  • Take 3 Tbsp water, oil & butter in a microwave safe bowl  and heat it for 30 seconds, mix once and if the butter has not melted, heat for another 10 seconds. 
  • Take it out of microwave and let it cool down slightly to warm. You can do this on stove top too. 
  • Heat the 1/4 cup of water to just lukewarm, add the sugar and yeast, mix and keep aside for yeast to get active. 
  • In a bowl, take flour, salt and baking soda, mix them together. Add vinegar and mix it in. 
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the yeasted water and the water with oil & butter. 
  • With the help of a spoon, bring everything together. It will be a sticky dough. 
  • Put it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 14-16 hours (I left it refrigerated for 24 hours). 
  • This dough will not rise very much (do not look for a double the volume kind of rise) which is perfectly normal for this dough. 
  • Take out the dough when you are getting ready to bake, let it come to room temperature for an hour or so. 
  • Generously dust your working surface with AP flour, take the dough out of the bowl and pat it into a rough rectangle. 
  • This dough is very soft and sticky so you can thin it out with hands. Use dry AP flour as needed. 
  • Once you have a rectangle of about 8X10 inches, fold the long edge over to the middle and fold the opposite edge over the top of the first folded edge. This gives the crackers the layers inside. 
  • Turn the folded dough sideways and roll (or pat) into a thin rectangle. I would recommend doing this on top of a parchment paper so you can easily transfer it to the baking sheets. 
  • With a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into small pieces of desired size. 
  • Sprinkle the toppings and using a fork, make indentations all over the crackers - This is very important if you don't want them to puff up like puris which they will without the forking. 
  • Preheat oven to 425F, put the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 10 minutes, turn the baking sheets 90 degrees and bake for another 2 minutes. 
  • Take them out immediately and let them cool for a couple of minutes before popping them into the mouth. 
  • Oven temperatures differ vastly, keep an eye on the crackers after 8 minutes and do not let them burn. 
  • Forking is essential to get flat crackers that are crispy. 
  • Overnight refrigeration develops the ultimate taste in these crackers, do not try to bake them as soon as the dough is mixed. The flavors come in over time. 
  • These crackers turn out really crispy and flaky inside, make sure you roll the dough out as thin as possible without tearing it apart. 
These crackers are off to the Baking Partner's monthly challenge. Thanks Swathi & Arthy for the flavorful crackers recipe. 


Kaveri Venkatesh said...

These crackers were a big hit at home and after baking the first batch I did not have enough for the making another batch today...Yours look perfect..I'm sure they would have tasted even more delicious with that lovely dip on the side

Kannada Cuisine said...

Wow...crackers home make..i can imagine the wonderful aroma in the kitchen while the crackers baked!

Ramya Krishnamurthy said...

Right am too did not have enough while shoot.yours looks so airy and flaky

NamsVeni Pothas said...

really wonderful crackers mouth watering pictures.

Priya Suresh said...

Can guess how addictive these crackers are, prefect to enjoy thoroughly with some chunky salsa na.

Swathi Iyer said...

Delicious crackers, I too enjoyed very much

Arthy shama said...

Love the way you narrated and yes, crackers looks godly :)

Suja Manoj said...

Wow perfectly made,looks so good

Gheza e shiriin said...

looks yummy.