If you were to look at my trolley at the supermarket check-out, you might possibly be surprised by the number of packets of different cracker biscuits.
We usually have two or three different packets on the go at any one time. There’s no chance of them getting stale - the grainy ones get gobbled up with blue cheese or cheddar (or peanut butter in the middle of the night), plain ones are the preferred partner for brie, goat’s cheese or hummus, thick, airy rye crispbreads get treated like a Scandi sandwich with toppings of avocado, cucumber and tuna; or cream cheese, smoked salmon or salami, capers and dill or rocket. Those thicker, denser cream crackers are a favourite topped with cold butter and honey, or butter and sliced tomato, or sardines - actually most any cracker is good with sardines. And those moreish seedy crackers are there just to snack on.
I don’t often buy potato chips - mainly because if they’re in the house I will eat the entire packet, and I figure that a wholegrain/ seedy cracker offers better nutrition than a chip ( which tends to a much higher fat content) and delivers almost the crunch factor makes potato chips so very appealing. My logic is doubtless a false economy, nutrition-wise, as I generally end up consuming a LOT of crackers. And calories are ... well, calories. No matter how you choose to take them, it’s energy in, that will require energy to be expended, or otherwise will end up squarely on your hips.
The term “cracker” was coined in the 1800s, for a type of flat, unleavened bread that made an audible crack or snap when it was broken into pieces. Originally created as a solution for sailors’ rations, crackers known as cabin bread, were designed to withstand long sea voyages without losing their crunch. Cabin bread is hard to come by these days, but you’ll often find it up in the Pacific islands - perhaps because of the number of sailors up there, or maybe because bread isn’t as widely made or consumed.
Recently, I’ve been down memory lane recently on a hunt for Kavli, a moreish paper-thin Scandi crispbread that was our cracker of choice when we were growing up. These crispbreads were particularly delicious sandwiched with a thick slather of butter and vegemite, with that appealing quality of being super crunchy when you bit into them and then melting in your mouth, with no chewing needed. Alas, these moreish biscuits no longer grace our grocery shelves. In their place are all manner of speciality crackers, bearing equally exotic price tags. As in $12 for a 120g packet of speciality superseed crackers. As you will see in the following recipes, it’s so easy to make your own savoury crackers and you won’t break the bank. Fill the tins in preparation for the upcoming revelries of the festive season, and pack some up for neighbourly gifts.
This thin, crunchy Middle Eastern crispbread is delicious as a picnic snack or served as a pre-dinner nibble with cheese. In this recipe I flavour it with sesame, but you could also use fennel seeds, parmesan or chillies. Cut any shapes you like – as long as the dough is very thin you’ll get a fabulous crisp bread. You can also make this with gluten free flour.
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 15-18 mins
Makes about 40
1 cup plain flour or GF flour
1 cup seeds eg a mix of sesame, sunflower and pumnpkin
1½ tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp sesame oil
½ cup water
Flaky sea salt
Preheat oven to 160C fan bake and line an oven tray with baking paper. In a mixing bowl stir together the flour, seeds, and salt. Mix the oils and water together and add to the dry ingredients, stirring to form a soft, pliable dough.
Divide the dough into half and place each half on sheet of baking paper. Place another piece of baking paper on top and roll out as thinly as possible. Cut into strips or squares, transfer to a baking tray with a little space between each, and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until crisp and pale golden – about 15-18 minutes. Or leave the dough in a whole piece and break into crackers when cooked and cooled. Allow to cool fully then store in an airtight container.
Carta de Musica Crackers
Traditionally a favourite snack that Sardinian shepherds packed as they tended their flocks. It’s said that the bakers would roll it out so thinly that a sheet of music could be read through it. I prefer it slightly thicker for a more substantial, bark-like cracker.
Ready in 30 minutes
Makes 16 thin large crackers
2 cups high-grade flour
¾ cup fine semolina
1 tsp salt
1 cup water (approx)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, to brush
A little flaky salt, garlic salt, chopped rosemary or parmesan, to sprinkle
Combine flour, semolina and salt in a bowl. Slowly add water, mixing to a soft dough, then turn out onto a board and knead until smooth. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180 C fan bake and line an oven tray with baking paper. Form dough into a log and divide into 16 evenly sized pieces.
Roll each piece out on a lightly oiled surface to create a long, paper-thin oval shape, or put through a pasta machine to produce long, narrow very thin strips.
Transfer to prepared baking tray and brush with oil. Sprinkle with flaky salt, garlic salt, rosemary or parmesan and bake until crisp and golden (about 10-15 minutes).
Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. They will keep fresh for weeks.
If they start to become stale and soften, simply refresh in an 180C oven for 5 minutes.
There’s no flour in these super-crunchy crackers, it’s the chia seeds that bind them. You can use ¼ cup chia seeds with 1¾ cups of any combination of mixed seeds. I’ve used pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and linseeds but amaranth, hemp and poppy seeds also work well.
Ready in 1 hour plus standing
Makes about 30
¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup hot water
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup linseeds
½ tsp salt
Flaky salt, to sprinkle
Preheat oven to 160C fan bake and line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
Mix chia seeds with hot water in a medium bowl and allow to stand while the chia seeds absorb the liquid (10 minutes). Stir in all remaining ingredients except flaky salt. Divide between the prepared trays and press out to roughly flatten. Place a second sheet of baking paper over the top of each and roll out as thinly as possible (around 3mm thick). Remove the top sheet of paper and sprinkle the cracker mix with flaky sea salt.
Bake for 30 minutes then flip the sheets of cracker mix. Return to oven and bake until they are crisp and firm and snap rather than fold when bent (a further 5-10 minutes). Leave to cool and crisp, then break into crackers. If you want them cut as neat crackers, bake for 20 minutes then cut into shapes, spread out a little on the trays and return to the oven to crisp (a further 15-20 minutes). They will keep for weeks in an airtight container.
Match these with ...
Kererū Brewing Hieronymus Borscht Red Beet Ale 440ml ($9)
One story all of my friends and family will tell at my funeral is that I love lavosh. No amount of it is ever safe in my pantry, which is why having a DIY version is way kinder to my wallet. I will then slather and squash unladylike amounts of blue cheese on it and that brings a conundrum. Sesame and blue cheese together can be tricky to pair with anything flavour-wise, right? Wrong. Because when you have a tall glass of beetroot beer handy, everything is possible. Crafted using beetroot powder, dill, black pepper, fennel seeds, hops, yeast and local barley, this unfiltered, cherry-hued brew is gorgeously floral, cleansing and crammed with bright, spicy flavours which wrap around the sesame and salty blue cheese like a champ. Available from Pak’n Save or Kererubrewing.co.nz
(Carta de musica crackers)
Spy Valley Echelon Marlborough Methode Traditionelle 2020 ($40)
Sometimes, when one is feeling squeamy of stomach or murky of mood, one may be advised to nibble on a plain cracker or seven. Plain is good. Salty, garlicky and herby is better. And nibbling while sipping some excellent sparkling wine is best. Spy Valley is a foundation member of the Methode Marlborough Society, where quality is monitored intensely to raise the regional standard. The Echelon is the pinnacle of what can be produced when clean fruit, delicate handling, and decades of experience come into play. With lemon, green apple, soft almond and bagel dough aromas, zesty and cleansing texture, teensy-tiny bubbles and exceptional length of flavour, it’s stylish, classic, and crazy-good with Carta de Musica crackers. Spyvalleywine.co.nz
Sunshine Brewing Life’s An Apricot American Wheat Apricot Ale 440ml ($11)
Back in the 1990s apricots were in everything. Jam obvs. We also roasted pork and chickens with them. We chopped them up, mixed them with cream cheese and herbs and made weird roulade-like recipes with them. We dipped them in chocolate. We fermented them into wine and we couldn’t get enough of them in our home-baked muesli bars. The Americans brewed them into trendy beers and 30 years later so are we. Thank gawd for that, because these seed-crammed, super-crunchy crackers cry out for a rich, creamy, fruity, frothy, wheaty brew like this to chew along to. beerandwine.co.nz