Cooking Fail – Crackers

My wife and I were watching a Minimalist episode where Mark Bittman made crackers. It looked marvelous. It looked simple. It looked nothing like the prohibitively over-meticulous process that Alton Brown went through on his crackers episode (I mean seriously, aluminum free baking powder? And I need to roll it to 1/16 of an inch thick?). My wife demanded that I make these. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite turn out. They can’t all be winners.

1. Flour and butter: I put 1C of flour into my food processor and then added 4T of roughly cubed butter.

2. Cheese it: I added about a half cup of parmesan. Actually, I probably added more than that. I didn’t measure, and I was trying to use up the remnants of a block of parmesan cheese that has been sitting in my fridge for longer than I would like to admit. I figured it would be ok. I’ve never met a cracker that was too cheesy.

3. Blitz: Run everything through the food processor to get everything incorporated and the butter granulated into small pieces.

4. Add liquid: The recipe said I could use .25C of cream or half and half. I had some cream left over from the time we made truffles, and I had no idea when I would use it otherwise.


5. Make into dough: blitz everything some more in the food processor. Things will ball up until they are the size of capn crunch cereal.

6. Roll:  Dump everything out onto a floured surface and mush it together. Once you get it into a ball, mush it down to create a disk. And then roll it out.

I tried to get it rolled as thin as possible. It took a lot of extra flouring to make it happen. I then carefully moved it to a parchment lined sheet tray.

7. Score and Bake: I deeply scored some lines into the dough to make the cracker shapes. I like smaller crackers, so I made mine small. Then, I put it into the oven at 400 for 10 minutes.

8. Cool and crack: Remove the parchment paper to a cooling rack. Once everything is cool, you can break the crackers along the scored lines. Sometimes, this will work great. Other times, not.

We ate these with a goat cheese dip. The dip was good. The crackers were not. The flavor was great: nice and cheesy. But the texture was all wrong. It was like eating a savory pie crust, which would be great if this were a savory pie, which it wasn’t. It was flaky, not crunchy.

I think I did three things wrong here. First, there was too much fat. I think it was the full fat cream that made it feel so much like a pie crust. Next time, I will use milk. Or maybe a combination of water and olive oil. I think there may need to be some chemical leavening and less butter, like in Alton’s Brown’s cracker recipe, which contains no butter at all.

Second, I think I need to figure out how to roll it out thinner. I rolled it as thin as I could this time, but after a certain point, everything just started sticking together. It became somewhat of a fiasco, which reminded me why I prefer cooking to baking.

Third, I think I need to cook it hotter for longer. Crackers are crunchy and crispy. But mine were neither.

The takeaway seems to be that crackers are manageable. Now that I know what doesn’t work for what I want, I know what to look for in future recipes. Hopefully, I can get this right. Because we eat a lot of crackers at our house.

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