4th of July Crackers

July 1st, 2009

dsc_00481 vagabondgourmand crackers

Even as the temperature mounts, 33° celsius and rising, prepare for the convivial crowd around your July 4th grill with a batch of crackers. Not fireworks, no firecrackers yet, just a tray of zippy biscuits – as munchable with cold beer as with a glass of fruity sangria.  As I made these, variations on the theme were reeling round my culinary imagination.  For openers, make the Almond Sesame version, then try your own riff using other flours, seeds and spices.  Made in the cool hours of a summer morning, this type of cracker/biscuit can be sealed away in a tight tin for a week – if there are any left.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, then cut in tiny chunks of cold butter with a pastry blender as for a pastry crust; stir in the yogurt and form a soft dough. Let the dough chill for 15 minutes, then take a quarter from the fridge to shape each batch. For crisper crackers, roll thinner (a bit trickier to manage) or cut back the baking powder by 1 tsp. Tasty gâteaux savoreux, rolled 1/4 inch thick and cut into diamonds, are perfect partners for dips.  This recipe makes about 60 to 70 crackers.

1/2 cup/85 g. ground almonds+ 2 tsp. Hungarian paprika (hot)

1 c./120 g. wheat flour (organic if possible) + 1/2 c/60 g. fine cornmeal

2 tsp. brown sugar + 1/2 tsp. fine salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda mixed with 2 tsp. baking powder

2 T. white sesame seeds, dry toasted + 1 T. black sesame seeds, dry toasted

1/2 cup/1 stick/115 g. cold butter chopped into bits

2/3 c/150 ml whole milk Greek style yogurt

extra sprinkling of flour for rolling out the crackers

Coat your fingers with flour, then work the dough into a ball in the bowl. When it pulls together, turn it out onto the flour-dusted work  surface (a cold slab of marble for shaping pastry works very well in warm weather). Work the dough gently, kneading as for bread dough for just a few minutes. Put it into a smaller, clean bowl, cut the ball of dough into 4 and cover. Chill for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°f/177°c. Remove one quarter of the dough at a time to shape each into a rectangle 10″ long and 3 to 4 ” wide, less than 1/4 ” thick. Cut into three parts lengthwise. With a long spatula, slide a strip at a time onto the baking sheet, prick with tines of a fork, brush with a beaten egg, and cut diagonally to form diamonds – or rectangles. Sprinkle with sea salt mixed with ground black pepper. Use a finger’s width spacing between them.  Bake on the top and lowest racks of the oven for 20 minutes if rolled thin; baking time is closer to 25 minutes for 1/4″ – until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, then shift to a rack.  Store in metal tins lined with baking paper.  These festive bites were inspired by Ruth Cousineau’s recipe in June 2009 Gourmet magazine, using cornmeal and green peppercorns.

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