I am a morning person. Saying I am not at my best or most productive at the other end of the day is more than an understatement. So guess what I was doing until nearly one this morning? Unexpectedly baking crackers! And then baking more crackers, and more crackers, and more crackers…
I had promised my husband several weeks ago that I would make crackers soon. He likes them so much, I usually make them fairly often and I had actually planned to make them yesterday morning, and then when I didn’t get to it, again in the afternoon. It was evening before I had the time. Normally I wouldn’t start baking anything so late, but usually crackers don’t take long to make. So what happened this time?
Well… it has been a while since I have made these crackers, which is probably the reason I didn’t remember that I had doubled my recipe for basic crackers when I copied it into my new little recipe book. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to double the recipe, because I ALWAYS make a double batch and it made sense (I thought) that working from an already doubled recipe would be easier than having to do the math each time to increase all the amounts. So last night when I started to make the crackers, I measured out all the ingredients for three separate batches of crackers because I wanted to make extras to freeze. And because I was tired, I didn’t notice that with the already doubled recipe, I was measuring out ingredients for SIX batches of crackers, not three.
I do remember thinking that it did look like an awful lot of flour, and bigger than usual balls of dough, but I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I did feel a little discouraged after I put the first two trays of crackers into the oven because cutting off enough dough for those first ninety eight crackers had barely made a dent in the first of the three balls of dough. I rolled out and cut another ninety eight crackers for the next two trays… looked at all the dough that was still left… and realized that it was going to be a very long night.
That’s when my husband suggested that we play Parcheesi to pass the time while we were waiting the twenty to twenty-five minutes for each batch of crackers to bake. We’ve had an ongoing Parcheesi “tournament battle” for years, and I usually have an incredible winning streak… but apparently that doesn’t extend into the evening. My husband triumphantly won almost every game. He really enjoyed the crackers, too!
Most cracker recipes are basically the same, but I do prefer the recipes that use baking powder instead of baking soda or no leavening agent at all, and milk instead of water, because I think these ingredients make for a better cracker. Last night I used butter for the shortening, but sometimes I use olive oil. I always start with the recipe for plain crackers. I use the food processor to mix each batch of dough, but first I process a couple of fresh garlic cloves with Parmesan/Romano cheese and dry basil and oregano (lots of all of these). I also add about two tablespoons of extra milk per batch… enough to compensate for the cheese and herbs and make the dough form a nice ball. Sometimes I add bits of dried tomatoes (but I didn’t last night). After I roll out the dough I sprinkle the top with medium kosher salt and run the rolling pin lightly over the dough again to embed the salt into the top of the cracker. Sometimes I do this with freshly ground pepper too, or red pepper, but be careful with these unless you like really hot crackers (we don’t). I use a table fork to make the little holes in the top of each cracker… this lets the steam escape so the crackers are crisp.
Cracker recipes are very flexible and crackers are extremely easy to make, but rolling out the dough can be a challenge sometimes because it can be difficult to get the dough thin enough… and the dough MUST be rolled out paper thin or the crackers will be tough and chewy. Another secret to crisp and tender crackers is to be sure that the crackers are thoroughly baked all the way through.
I use a small doughnut cutter, the part that makes the doughnut hole, to cut the crackers. My cutter makes a one and a quarter inch diameter cracker, which is a perfect size for snacking by the handful or as an accompaniment to a bowl of hot soup. I almost always make small round crackers, but crackers can be made any shape or size. A pizza wheel works well to cut larger square or rectangular shapes quickly.
I took the last trays of crackers out of the oven just before one this morning, making a total of more than eight hundred crackers baked and packed in “portion sizes” and stored in the freezer… plus a small cookie jar full of crackers on the kitchen counter waiting for snack hungry people. And then there was the final Parcheesi tournament score… eighteen games won by my husband and only five won by me!