Day 7 in our 10-part series and we’ve landed back in Australia and we’re in Sydney.
I mentioned in Part 1 of the series that I would be sharing recipes that intimidated me. This is one of them. I’ve seen crackers on other blogs and although I’ve been inspired to take up the challenge, I’ve avoided making them. I thought it was time I shifted out of my comfort zone and did something new in the Hotly Spiced kitchen.
The crackers were posted by Celia, bread maker extraordinaire. I started following Celia’s blog because I loved how ‘back to basics’ it is with the chickens and veggie patch in the backyard, the emphasis on buying quality produce over quantity, the restraint on being wasteful, the emphasis on making things from scratch and how she challenges herself to develop new skills.
Celia was the very first blogger to reach out to me and turn a virtual relationship into a ‘normal’ friendship where we physically spent time together. Celia introduced me to other bloggers and because of Celia, I have developed lovely friendships people like Tania, Lorraine and Rebecca.
I love Celia’s sense of community. She’s been living in the same street for quite some time and it seems so have her neighbours. And why would you leave! Celia bakes bread and sends it around the street, she makes cakes for their birthdays, sends around eggs and vegetables, makes tempered chocolates and delivers them, holds cooking lessons for the kids in the street and socially, they get together for drinks or a Sunday bar-be-cue. Wouldn’t you love a neighbour like Celia!
And when I say she’s always challenging herself to master new skills, she’s often said on her blog that she’s no good at decorating cakes so currently she’s spending time learning how to become good with a piping bag.
I think this cracker recipe must have been one of the first blog posts Celia ever did as it’s from 2009 and there’s just two comments and one of them is hers! I was attracted to this recipe because I see crackers like this all wrapped up in long, thin, cellophane bags at delis and they’re very expensive. I wanted to see if I could develop some cracker-making skills and save myself a fortune plus have the satisfaction of, like Celia, developing a new skill.
Was I successful? Well…let’s just say I think I have a very long way to go when it comes to perfecting crackers. This recipe makes an enormous volume of crackers so next time I’ll probably halve it. Everything went very well until it came time to roll out the dough. You roll it out on parchment paper (didn’t have any) so I used baking paper and as I rolled the dough the paper scrunched up underneath it. I tried sticking the paper down with tape but with the oil on the bench and the wax on the paper, it wouldn’t stick. I had trouble getting the dough thin enough and I think I undercooked the first few trays. These are more crunchy when they’re deeply golden.
I did get better as the process went on and I think that when it comes to crackers, it’s not something you’re going to master on your first attempt, especially if you’re not used to proving and kneading and stretching and rolling dough.
I do have to say though, that with the spices in these crackers, (particularly the fennel), they have a beautiful flavour and are highly addictive. They are great just on their own but I love them with some brie or blue cheese.
- 1kg (2.2lbs) pizza or bread flour
- 25gms (2⅕ tspns) dried yeast
- 3 tspns ground cumin
- 3 tspns ground coriander
- 3 tspns ground fennel
- 2 tspns salt
- 2½ cups water
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 egg whites, beaten
- sesame seeds
- extra salt
- In a large mixing bowl combine flour and yeast. Add spices and salt and mix well.
- Add the water and olive oil and mix with a spatula to create a wet sticky dough. If necessary, use a clean hand to squelch everything together and make sure there are no dry bits remaining. Alternatively, you could try and make the whole thing in a mixer - if you have one that's large enough. Scrape your hand or spatula clean, and cover the dough with a tea towel and rest for 15 minutes.
- Turn the dough onto an oiled bench and knead briefly until smooth. It should work easily, as the large amount of oil makes this a very silky dough. Try kneading with the slap and fold method rather than pummelling with the heel of your palm (which doesn’t work well with a wet dough). Spray your scraped-out mixing bowl with oil, then turn the dough into it and cover with oiled clingfilm. Allow to rest for an hour in a warm place, or until doubled in size.
- Turn the risen dough onto an oiled bench and fold several times to knock the air out. Divide the dough into four even portions and shape each one into a ball. Pop each ball into an oiled container and cover, then allow to rest for a further hour (this further resting time enables you to stretch the dough very thinly later). You could also just put each ball onto a large sheet of parchment paper, and cover with oiled clingfilm. Make sure they’re not too close together, or they’ll prove into each other.
- Pre-heat the oven to 175C (350F).
- Tear off a sheet of parchment paper the size of your baking tray. Turn a ball of dough onto your paper and gently ease it out. Your aim is to get the dough as thin as possible. Start by lifting and stretching the dough with your fingers, then roll it out even more thinly with a rolling pin. When you think you’ve rolled it as thinly as you can, roll it a bit more. Dust with a little flour if necessary, but don’t use more than you need, or the dough will stiffen up and lose its elasticity. Note: You may need to divide the mixture in half and work with one half at a time. This recipe really does go a long way!
- Brush the top of the flattened dough with beaten egg white, then sprinkle generously with sesame seeds and (optional) salt. Cut the dough into large pieces. You can use a pizza cutter but make sure you use something that does cut into your bench.
- Slide the dough and parchment onto a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through the cooking time. Allow to cool on a wire rack, and EAT!
For this and more great recipes you can follow Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.
Missed some of this series? You can catch up by browsing the following links…
Tomorrow, we’re cooking something that all good Aussies grew up on.