In preparation for a last minute get-together with friends last week, my husband and I dashed to our neighborhood grocery store for a whirlwind shopping trip. There was no time for homemade appetizers. Some wine, cheese, olives, salami, hummus and crackers would have to do. Of course, I couldn’t help myself; I doctored up the hummus as a compromise for not serving my usual homemade version. The dressed-up hummus earned the praise of our friends but my husband and I were especially pleased with the crackers we purchased. They were simply seasoned with salt and cracked pepper but at $6.00 for a mini package, I was motivated to make my own.
I’ve had my mind on homemade crackers all week. On one hand, I was excited at the prospect of making something that, one year ago, I would never have thought to try. On the other, I was apprehensive about potentially failing at something that seemed so simple. “Gourmet” crackers. Surely there is a reason they command such a premium price?
I consulted a few recipes for my maiden cracker voyage. Ultimately, I combined the technique of one, some of the ingredients of another and threw in my ideas for making them better…at least the latter was my hope.
I didn’t realize how easy crackers are to make. A few simple ingredients, a little bit of kneading and rolling out the dough made for some great crackers. I took pointers from reading America’s Test Kitchen’s version and rolled the dough on an inverted baking sheet. It worked very nicely since my first attempt made hard work of rolling to paper-thinness an elastic dough. The dough adhered enough to the sheet pan to keep it from springing back too much while rolling it. Even better, the crackers baked right on the same pan.
The key is to roll out the dough paper thin. It helps to achieve the crispness that one would expect from a cracker. Additionally, my first batch, though tasty, puffed up on the borders so I pierced the surface of the dough with a fork to prevent this from happening again. I also scored the dough to get more uniform pieces instead of irregular shaped ones. It worked. My second batch of crackers was nice and flat and cooled to room temperature, they were perfectly crisp.
This is a good basic recipe. While I was inspired to recreate the salt and pepper combination, it should also work well with an herb or cheese topping. I do recommend the salt and pepper combination, though. The crackers would have been too mellow without the kick from the salt crystals and the spicy bite of the pepper. In fact, next time, I’ll add even more cracked pepper. Who needs store-bought? I’m a convert to homemade.
Sea Salt and Pepper Crackers
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Sea salt to sprinkle on top of dough
- 2 turns black pepper from a peppermill plus more for sprinkling
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
- Preheat your oven to 450°F. (With my convection oven, I baked at 425°F).
- Using a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and pepper until combined.
- Add the pieces of chilled butter and process until the butter is no longer discernible in the mixture, a few seconds.
- With the food processor on, add the milk and process until the dough comes together.
- Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes.
- Shape into a ball and cut in half.
- Roll out one half of dough on an inverted baking pan. I used a half sheet size pan and rolled out as thinly as I could until the dough came close to the edges of the pan. Repeat for the second half.
- Sprinkle sea salt and more black pepper.
- Pierce the surface of the dough with a fork and score it with a knife into serving size pieces.
- Bake on the sheet pan for 10-12 minutes, making sure to rotate the pan halfway through the cooking time.
- Take out of the oven and allow to rest on the pan for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Cut into serving pieces.