Yes, you can buy them in the store. Yes, they’re relatively cheap. So, you may be asking yourself, is it really worth making crackers at home?
I asked myself the same question before I finally tried it. You see, I love crackers – I always have “crunchy snacks” written on my grocery list, and I love a good vehicle for hummus, cheese, and other dips (celery works, but dang, crackers). There’s a discount store in our town that sells crackers on the cheap, too, but it’s a bit of a crap shoot what you’ll get, since it’s usually overstock product.
But as I move more towards reducing household waste and single-use plastics, buying crackers in cardboard boxes (not TOO bad, but not great) wrapped in absolutely unrecycleable plastic (pretty bad) is not my favorite. And frankly, I like customizing my food – the “good” crackers (those with herbs and flavors and whatnot) actually aren’t that great of a deal, and I don’t always find the combinations I want or can make on my own. I love experimentation, and crackers are a great vehicle for that, too.
So why did I avoid them for so long? The recipe, at least what I saw at first glance, is very similar to pie crust dough. And in my early and more vulnerable baking years, I had a pretty nasty relationship with pie dough that involved a lot of swearing and throwing things around in the kitchen. (I’ve since matured and gotten marginally better, but since I don’t practice my pie-making much, I’m still a mediocre pie baker. Crazy, I know.)
But crackers, my friends, are much more forgivable than pie crusts, especially since the dough is designed to be broken. It comes together quickly, bakes quickly, and tastes awesome. I need not (but still will) add that you will know exactly what goes into your crackers, unlike the store-bought versions, which likely have all kinds of extra sugar lurking about, among other things you probably don’t want in something so simple.
Ready to try it? C’mon. It’ll be fun!
This recipe is infinitely customizable, and is also a fabulous way to use extra sourdough starter if you’re not baking a loaf one week – the crackers will take on a cheesy taste without actually adding any cheese or extra salt. I’ll provide the variation at the bottom of the recipe.
You will need:
- 1 c flour (whatever kind you want – I stick with all-purpose, but wheat would be fun!), plus more for dusting
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cold butter
- 1/4 c water
Step 1: Heat oven to 400 degrees F. If using a baking stone, place in the middle rack while the oven preheats. If not, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper (or go with old-fashioned grease 🙂
Step 2: Combine the butter, flour, and salt in a bowl and cut with a pastry cutter until the butter is evenly distributed in small (pea-sized) pieces. You may also do this in a food processor with a few pulses. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together.
Step 3: Place a large piece of parchment paper (or Silpat) on a clean work surface, and dust with flour. (You could technically do these next steps without paper or Silpats, but it will be much more difficult to move the final dough to the baking stone or sheet.) Place dough on parchment and knead lightly until the dough forms a smooth ball. Divide dough in half.
Step 4: Roll out one half of the dough on the parchment until very thin – 1/8 inch at the thickest – and about the size of your baking stone or sheet. (You can do this with another sheet of parchment on top if you wish.) Sprinkle with flour and turn the dough as needed to keep it from sticking to your rolling pin, counter, or parchment. Repeat with second half of the dough.
Step 5: Using a fork and a pastry wheel or knife, score the dough into squares (or whatever shape you want) and poke a few holes in each square with the fork.
Step 6: Transfer the parchment with the dough directly to the baking stone or sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, checking periodically for premature browning of the edges. If the edges brown more quickly than the center, you can remove the crackers and break off the browning bits (or, if you’re like us, you like a bit of both worlds and leave them on!). It is better to err on the side of overbaking versus underbaking – you can always return the crackers to the oven at a lower temperature (200 degrees F) until they are crispy.
Step 7: Cool crackers on a rack, then break apart. You can eat immediately after cooling, or store them in an airtight container – they’ll get softer over time as they stale.
Variations and Add-ins:
- Sourdough Starter Variation: Omit the water, and increase the butter to 4 tablespoons. After you cut the butter into the flour and salt, add 1 cup of sourdough starter where you would add the water. Proceed with the recipe.
- Herbs, both fresh and dried, are great additions to crackers! Be conscious of how strong-tasting the herbs are and add at your leisure. I’m a fan of thyme, personally.
- Cheese Crackers: up to 1 cup harder cheese (think parmesan), and up to 1/2 c softer cheese (think cheddar) added to the dough while mixing.
- Spice Crackers: add at your whim and leisure while mixing the dough. Use a light hand with stronger spices.
- Toppings: salt, pepper, sesame seeds, fresh herbs, dried herbs, cheese, minced garlic. Frankly, whatever your heart desires.
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