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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Crackers, Crackers, Crackers!

When the winter weather is blasting, there is nothing more satisfying, than a home-cooked meal. In the mood for chili during a recent cold spell, Papa was disappointed that we were out of saltine crackers.  I had seen recipes for saltines and they sounded very simple, so I decided to try them for myself. They were as simple as they sounded and with a little practice for the right thickness, these will be one less thing that will be purchased for the Matthews' Home in the future!  The chili is made with ground venison that I killed last fall, homecanned pinto beans and homecanned chili sauce that I put up last summer. It took about 5 minutes to brown the venison and dump everything in the crockpot. Then when it was time to eat, about 15 minutes for the crackers. This is "fast food" at its finest.

In my research to find saltine recipes, I found that most were the same basic recipe. A few had baking powder added.  This time I used the basic recipe without the baking powder but will try adding a teaspoon of baking powder next time to see which I like best.

The basic ingredients:  1 C. all-purpose flour
                                  1/2 tsp salt
                                  2 TBS shredded butter
                                  6-7 TBS water
                                  melted butter
                                  additional salt

Mix together flour and salt. Shred butter into bowl with hand grater. This technique makes mixing the dough much easier than trying to "cut" it into the flour.  I always have a hard time cutting my butter into biscuits etc.  It seems to me that cold homemade butter is much harder than what you buy at the store. It makes me wonder just what else is added to the purchased butter....but I digress.  After mixing to the point of looking similar to cornmeal, add the water 1 TBS at a time until you have a soft dough that is easily rolled out with a rolling pin.

Divide dough into two or three sections. Using extra flour to keep dough from sticking to countertop and rolling pin, roll out dough until very thin (1/8th inch works well).  Transfer your rolled dough to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  A side note: baking on parchment paper makes clean up so easy.  Since your food has never touched your baking sheet, simply wipe with a damp cloth, dry and put away.  The parchment also seems to make baking more even, without worry about those older dark sheets causing over baking.

Brush with extra melted butter and sprinkle with extra salt.  At this stage you could brush with olive oil and add other herbs to taste for a special treat.  I scored mine with a serated wheel that I purchased for a quarter at my local thrift store. It is perfect for this process, but you can also score with a pizza cutter. I also used a fork and made some holes in the crackers....just because it made them look more like the crackers we are familiar with.

Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once for even cooking.  Watch them closely the last few minutes, they can burn quickly at the last stage of baking.  They will also harden as they cool, so they may be a little soft when first removed from the oven.

Once they cool enough to break apart without burning your fingers, break apart and eat immediately or store in an airtight container.  Next time you find yourself out of saltines, try this simple recipe. You may find that you, too, will cross saltines off your grocery list forever.

Stay tuned. I also made wheat thins, but want to tweak my recipe and process just a bit to make them more flavorful before I share it.

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