Homemade crackers are a bite apart



We’re crackers about homemade crackers.

They’re so easy to make and so addictive in their deliciousness.

Their distinctive flavors come from the savory bite of quality cheese or a sprinkling of fresh herbs or a simple garnish of tiny seeds.

The handful of ingredients mix together effortlessly, with nothing artificial — just wholesome goodness.

Individuality is a hallmark of these savory nibbles, so don’t worry if they’re a little overbaked, underbaked or not perfectly uniform. Guests will take one bite and be impressed, because few take the time or effort to make crackers from scratch. They’ll be the toast of the party — imperfections and all.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making these savory snacks:

• If rolling the dough out, roll it as thin as possible and as uniform as possible. The crackers will bake faster and more evenly. Also, if a recipe calls for a leavening agent — baking soda or baking powder — keep in mind that the crackers will rise a little and the finished snack will be just a bit thicker.

• Play around with the flavors, substituting like cheeses or varying the seeds used to garnish them.

• Don’t overmix the dough or crackers will turn out tough.

• Store in an airtight container, ideally between sheets of waxed paper.

• Pop them in the oven for five minutes at 300 or 325 degrees to crisp them up.

Corn Crackers

Serves: 6 to 8.

This recipe is from “The Italian Table: Eating Together for Every Occasion,” by Ron Suhanosky (Kyle, $29.95). Bee baker Sharon K. Ghag doubled the shallots, thyme and peppercorns. “The flavors of the shallots really came through in the baked cracker,” she said.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup fresh stone-ground cornmeal

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

5 black peppercorns, crushed

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, peppercorns, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.

Place the milk, butter, shallots and thyme in a blender and process for about two minutes, or until well incorporated. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and work the two together with your hands, kneading the dough with your fingers, until a pliable dough forms.

Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of a 1/4 inch or less. Place the bottom parchment with the dough cylinder on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the dough with about 1 teaspoon salt and bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until golden around the edges.

Remove the dough from the oven and cut it into 2-inch squares or, if you prefer, diagonal shapes. (There is no need to separate them at this stage; they easily will break apart once fully baked.) Return the crackers to the oven and bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature and serve.

The crackers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Rustic Rosemary-Parmesan Crackers

Makes 1 dozen crackers.

This recipe is from “Gift Cooks Love: Recipes for Giving,” by Diane Morgan from Sur La Table (Andrews McMeel, $25). Bee baker Deke Farrow said rolling out the dough was a challenge (Bee tasters said it was well worth his effort). Farrow also doubled the amount of Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top before baking for zestier crackers.

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing pans

6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour, rosemary, salt and sugar. Pour water over top and begin mixing on low speed until ingredients come together. Increase to medium speed and knead dough for five minutes. Wrap dough in plastic and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush two large rimmed sheets with olive oil. Divide dough in half. Rewrap one portion. Dust work surface and dough with flour and roll dough into a 24-by-8-inch rectangle. Brush surface with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Cut into eight 1-inch squares. Arrange 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake eight to 10 minutes, or until golden with bubbled spots of brown on the bottom and top.

Layer crackers in airtight container between waxed paper. Store at room temperature for one month. Do not store in plastic.

Gorgonzola Crackers

Makes 50 to 80 depending on the thickness of the dough log.

This recipe was based on one from Ina Garten on the Food Network website. Bee baker Pat Clark said the original recipe called for Stilton cheese and chopped walnuts. “I switched it up, using a less expensive blue cheese: gorgonzola. I skipped the walnuts and rolled the crackers in poppy seeds. I also played with some of the measurements, all based on comments from readers off the website.” Clark also made a batch with goat cheese and chives that were equally delicious, but they required a bit longer baking time.

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

1/4 cup poppy seeds

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and gorgonzola together for one minute, or until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it’s in large crumbles, about one minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until combined.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into two logs. Brush the logs completely with the egg wash. Spread the poppy seeds on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the seeds, pressing lightly, and distributing them evenly. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to four days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the logs into 3/16-inch-thick coins with a small, sharp knife and place the crackers on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 minutes, then flip each cracker and bake six to eight minutes more or until browned. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Oatmeal Crackers for Cheese

Makes 25 to 30 crackers.

This recipe is from “Gifts from the Kitchen: 100 Irresistible Homemade Presents for Every Occasion,” by Annie Rigg (Kyle, $24.95). Says Rigg, “There are many different whole-wheat flours now available, so play around with different types to see which you prefer. I particularly like using a flour with wheat and barley flakes, kibbled rye, and assorted seeds already added.” Bee baker Nan Austin and all the tasters agreed that these crackers call for soft cheese or a bit of homemade chutney or relish.

2/3 cup oat bran or oatmeal

1 1/3 cups whole-wheat flour

2 level teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon dried mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 stick unsalted butter, diced and chilled

2 level tablespoons golden superfine sugar

3 tablespoons milk

All-purpose flour, for rolling

Sift the oat bran, flour, baking powder, mustard powder, pepper and salt into a large bowl and add any bran left in the sifter. Pour into the bowl of a food processor and add the diced butter and superfine sugar.

Using the pulse button, process the mixture until the butter has been rubbed into the flour. Add the milk and pulse again until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Place dough on a flour-dusted work surface and knead very lightly and just enough to bring together. Cover with a clean cloth and set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with nonstick parchment paper. Lightly flour the work surface again, then roll the dough to about 1/4 -inch thickness and cut out shapes, using a cookie cutter. Reroll any trimmings. Prick the biscuits with a fork, arrange on the prepared baking sheets and bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, or until starting to turn golden at the edges. You may need to swap the baking sheets around halfway through cooking. Cool the crackers on the baking sheets for two minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack.

Stored in an airtight tin, these crackers will keep for a couple of weeks.

Cheese Sables

Makes about 24 crackers.

This recipe is also from “Gifts from the Kitchen,” by Annie Rigg (Kyle, $24.95). These crackers are buttery, crumbly, cheesy and just a little spicy. “Coat the outside of these cookies with a mixture of sesame and kalonji seeds to make them a more sophisticated cocktail nibble,” says Rigg. Bee baker Nan Austin said she rediscovered her food processor while making these crackers, and she’s never letting it collect dust again.

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1 teaspoon cumin or caraway seeds, lightly crushed

1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and diced

2/3 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese

3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon milk

Sesame seeds (optional)

Kalonji (black onion) seeds (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the flour, salt, cayenne, mustard powder, cumin or caraway seeds, and some black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Add the diced butter and use the pulse button to rub it into the dry ingredients.

Add the grated cheeses and pulse again until the dough just comes together — you may need to add a drop of cold water.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a log roughly 2 inches in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for a few hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with nonstick parchment paper. Take the log out of the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and brush with milk before coating in the sesame and kalonji seeds, if using. Slice the log into disks, roughly 1/4 -inch thick, and arrange on the baking sheets, spacing the cookies well apart.

Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Once completely cold, the sables can be packaged.

Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for four to five a days.