Monday, September 23, 2013


I don't know about you, but I hate spending money on crackers. They're so expensive! But before you write me off as a cheapskate, Ivy Manning perfectly articulates the problem in her clever and tasty new CRACKERS AND DIPS*:  More Than 50 Handmade Snacks (Chronicle Books: $19.95; ISBN: 978-1-4521-0950-3). "The average box of crackers can cost as much as a good cheese, but turn that box around and look at the ingredients list, and you'll find they're all made with the same simple, inexpensive ingredients: flour, oil, and salt." How right Ivy is. In this her third cookbook, the Portland, Oregon-based food writer has given us a terrific collection of crackers that go with anything you want to put on them, and has thoughtfully added a group of her favorite "dips, spreads, and schemers" to give your homemade crackers the adornment they deserve." There are no preservatives, increased fat, sodium, and sugar in these crackers and every recipe is well within the skills of the average home cook.

CRACKERS AND DIPS covers many types and tastes:

*Familiar such as Tangy Cheddar Cheese Crackers or "Everything"       Flatbread Crackers        
 *International--Senbei (Japanese Rice Crackers with Furikake), Caesar's Sablés

*Healthful snacks and wheat-free crackers, i.e., Spelt Pretzel Rounds and Seeded Quinoa Crackers
*Crackers that can be made in minutes--Frico with Basil and Pappadams Three Ways and Perfect Crostini
*Dessert crackers for the sweet tooth--Animal Crackers with Zesty Lemon Frosting, Rosemary Graham Crackers with S'Mores Accoutrements and Cinnamon Pistachio Baklava Crisps

There is an equal specialness to the dips, spreads, and schemers.  Fresh Artichoke Dip, Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Dip, and Wasabi Edamame Schmear, would be three nice new additions to your snack or cocktail fare. Ivy says the Bacon and Caramelized Onion Jam "yields enough jam to share." Yeah sure--like I'm going to part with this fabulous recipe. Make your own!

Take CRACKERS AND DIPS with you when you're next in need of a creative hostess gift for your favorite cook. It is handsomely bound in a textured hardcover with Jennifer Altman's distinctive photographs, and is my favorite single-subject cookbook of the year. 

“Everything” Flatbread Crackers

My favorite morning treat is an “everything” bagel festooned with onion, garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and caraway; I’m hooked on their intriguing mix of flavors and textures. These elegant little crackers are an homage to those bagels, with all the delicious bagel decorations parked on top of flaky, tangy crackers made with crème fraîche. 

“Everything” Flatbread Crackers are great smeared with any creamy dip: the Cervelle de Canut (page 119) and the Smoked Salmon Crème FraÎche Dip (page 118) come immediately to mind.
2 tbsp fried shallots or dried onion flakes
2 tsp dried minced garlic
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp sel gris, or other granular sea salt
2 cups/255 g unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup/60 ml crème fraîche, or sour cream
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 tbsp/90 ml water
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/ gas 4. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the shallots, garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, and sel gris; set aside. 

In a food processor or large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and fine sea salt and pulse or whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche, olive oil, and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and pulse or stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 10 strokes.
Divide the dough into two balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Pat one ball into a small rect­angle and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until the dough is ⅟₁₆ in/2 mm thick, picking up the dough occasionally and rotating it to make sure it’s not sticking to the work surface. Alternatively, use a pasta maker following the method on page 13 until the dough is ⅟₁₆ in/2 mm thick, the number 5 setting on most machines.
Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, trim any irregular edges (save the scraps). Cut the dough into rectangles measuring 2 by 4 in/5 by 10 cm and trans­fer them to the baking sheet, spacing them very close together. Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining ball of dough and scraps, using a second baking sheet.
Brush the crackers lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle them with the shallot mixture. Using a flat-bottomed mea­suring cup, gently tamp down the toppings into the dough to adhere. Prick each cracker 4 or 5 times with a fork or comb.

Bake until the crackers are golden brown and crisp, 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once from top to bottom and from back to front while baking. Cool on racks and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. 

*Blogger seems to be having trouble creating an ampersand symbol without additions cropping up. Must be some trouble with the HTML must be awry. 

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