It was soup last week, so this week it’s crackers. And though I’ve often made soup from the ground up — that is, from bones and/or vegetable trim and water — I had only once tried to make my own crackers. It was years ago and didn’t turn out very well, because in those days I thought butter and shortening were interchangeable. But now, it was time to try again.
What is the essence of crackers, that makes them crispy and keeps them that way? To find out, I looked up recipes for hard tack, which was probably the original, and certainly an extreme, cracker. Made of nothing but flour, water, and salt, it contained nothing that could go bad. Soldiers, sailors, and travelers could still eat it years after it had been baked — if they had something to soak it in. Otherwise, it was just too tough. WikiBooks says you can add shortening, if you’re not hung up on authenticity. I wasn’t.
So, along with shortening, I decided to add something to give these a little more crunch — and I just happened to have some toasted poppy seeds left from another recipe awhile back.
These came out as a sort of cross between crackers and very small biscuits — they’d be good as snacks, appetizers or on top of soup. I’ll admit I forgot to poke any holes in them (these are called docking holes, WikiBooks informs us) to keep air pockets from forming. They may have been flatter and crisper if I’d done it.
If you want to make something to store up for earthquakes (yeah, I live on the West Coast) or other disasters, try leaving out the shortening and seeds. Also try baking the crackers longer and at a lower temperature, like 250℉, since you’re not so much cooking them as drying them out.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 2 teaspoons toasted poppy seeds (toss them in a hot iron pan till they give off a nut-like smell)
- ¾ cup water
- Mix the flour, salt, and poppy seeds in a medium bowl.
- Add the shortening and water.
- Mix (an electric mixer is good) into a smooth dough.
- Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness.
- Cut into circles with a 1-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter.
- Place on greased baking sheet.
- Bake at 400℉ for 10 to 15 minutes or until browned on lower side.
- Turn over and bake five more minutes.
- Cool completely before serving.