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Milling Heritage and Ancient Grains for Baking Bread and Beyond

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12 hours ago, Wholemeal Crank said:

More on how home milling is not just about bread.....


A Cracker Primer


This is how I make crackers.  I was making two different batches of crackers this day, one batch of Corny Crackers, and one batch of Four-Seed Snapper crackers from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.

I love crackers, and like homemade ones, but was frustrated with the effort to yield ratio required, and the lack of crispness if I didn't get the dough perfectly thin, or the high proportion of scorched crackers if I did roll them perfectly thin.  I've since figured out some tricks that make it a lot easier and more efficient to make a bunch of them at once.

After you've prepared the dough of your choice, let it rest and chill if required, and preheated the oven to about 400 degrees or as called for in your recipe, pat handfuls of dough into a rough rectangle and place on a baking sheet liner (teflon, silicone, heck, parchment would probably work too).  If needed, set the liner on a damp towel to keep it in place on your work surface as you roll out the dough.




Dust below and the top of the dough lightly to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.




Roll out the dough to desired thinness (usually 1/16" to 1/8", 2-3mm), rolling always from the center out to the edge, to avoid the edge rolling sticking and rolling up onto the pin.  

Next, dock the dough:  with a fork, or better yet, a rolling docker, prick the dough evenly.  This is to keep the dough from ballooning up like pitas as it bakes and making uneven crackers.




Now cut the crackers, with a knife (gently so it won't damage your baking sheet liner) or a rolling pizza cutter or other cutter.  I use a pasta cutter here.



Now the crackers are ready to transfer to the baking sheet.  



This is a slick trick:  no spatulas and careful arrangements needed.  Just slip directly onto the baking sheet, liner and all.



Now slide the baking sheet into the preheated oven.  I keep baking tiles in the oven pretty much all the time, and bake two sheets worth of stuff at once.

I set the timer for halfway through the baking time, and switch the sheets top and bottom and flip them front to back for even baking.



I do not try to get them fully crisp at this time--the first baking is to brown them.  They're going back in the oven like biscotti do to get crisp.  This way I will be able to get all of them crisp without burning many or any, or doing a dance with the oven to remove them as they're done while letting others bake on.  

Once they're done, I set them aside, still on their baking sheet, unless I need to reuse the sheet and liner.  If I were not double-baking them, I would remove them to cooling racks at this step.



Then after all the dough is baked once, I turn off the oven and open the door until the temp is about 250 degrees F or so.  Then I return the crackers to the oven, loosely piled on baking sheets, and set the temp to 150°F (for overnight crisping) or 200°F (for at least two hours).  This is hot enough to dry and crisp them but not hot enough to burn them.



Remove them carefully--even 150°F is plenty hot to burn bare fingers--and let them cool on a rack.  

Then enjoy your double-baked, crisp, easy crackers.


Thanks for the primer. 


That is a very lovely rolling pin!

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Your photos and method look great!  But, for some reason, I always thought that crackers were a laminated product - the dough is folded many times (like a croissant) before finally being rolled thing and cut.  I once saw a video of an industrial cracker factory and they had a huge machine that would drop a thin sheet of dough onto a conveyor - but the conveyor didn't only move one way - it moved back and forth to progressively stack dough in a few layers as the conveyor went down.  It would then go through another huge machine that would roll the layered batch into a single thin smooth layer.


Skip to around 1:57 for the rolling/sheeting

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There are different kinds of crackers!  I mostly make whole grain crackers without laminations, depending on thinness, coarseness of grains/seeds and levels of fats to keep them from breaking teeth.  That's where the coarse-ground grains from the hand-mill come into things--they break up some not-so-fat-rich doughs.  Peter Reinhart's seedy snapper crackers used the oily seeds for tenderizing, but they depend on absolutely fresh seeds and being eaten quickly to keep the crackers tasting fresh.  The eating quickly bit is mostly not a problem because they're delicious, but the absolutely fresh seeds is not always easy to arrange. 


I did finally figure out how to make laminated soda crackers (saltines) , but I've not prepared a photo primer on that yet.  Here are the finished crackers....


3070418238_32243619f2_c.jpgHomemade Saltines by debunix, on Flickr


Too much to do, too little time.  I'm working on photo primers on a couple of cookies right now.



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On 11/30/2019 at 4:01 PM, Wholemeal Crank said:

This is how I make crackers.


Thank you for this! 


Got any good gluten-free crackers you can suggest?

Don't ask. Eat it.


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6 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

 Saltines. Real homemade saltines with just milled whole grains. @Wholemeal Crank, won't you be my neighbor? 


The problem wih the saltines is that they're so darn good they disappear FAST.  Even double or triple batches.   The butter is definitely part of the reason.


5 hours ago, kayb said:

Got any good gluten-free crackers you can suggest?


I've only recently started to work on this due to friend's celiac diagnosis, and the 'Tangy Aromatic Crackers' from Alice Medrich in Flavor Flours, are by far the best yet. 


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13 hours ago, Wholemeal Crank said:


I've only recently started to work on this due to friend's celiac diagnosis, and the 'Tangy Aromatic Crackers' from Alice Medrich in Flavor Flours, are by far the best yet. 



And I can (and just did) get that on Kindle Unlimited. Thanks again.


Don't ask. Eat it.


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Posted (edited)

A fabulous invention this morning:


Rosemary-Raisin Walnut Scones

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

If you have a mill, mill these together:
    250 grams soft white wheat
    50 grams brown rice (makes the scones a little crunchy on the outside)
    1 teaspoon dried rosemary
    1/2 teaspoon thyme (optional)
    1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)
     1 clove (optional)
    1 inch vanilla bean, cut into bits


[If no mill, consider
   2 cups of all purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour or blend of these, substituting up to 1/3 cup of rice flour, if you have it, for some extra crunch
   1 teaspoon ground rosemary
   1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
   1/2 teaspoon ground thyme (optional)
   itty-bitty pinch of clove (optional)
   and add 1 teaspoon vanilla with the juice, water/buttermilk, and egg below]
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk powder OR use buttermilk to complete the liquid volume below (powdered version allows more concentrated flavor despite limited liquid component of recipe)

25 grams flaxseed, ground in a clean coffee mill/spice grinder (optional, good fiber & omega 3 and nutty flavor)


Stir/strain/sift all the dry ingredients together until thoroughly mixed


1 cup raisins
zest of orange you juice for the next step
up to 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
3/4 cup toasted walnuts (about 12-15 minutes at 325 spread onto bare baking sheet usually does fine)


Chop these an add to dry ingredients or easier still, put the dry ingredients in the bowl of your food processor, and process the raisins, zest and rosemary until the raisins are small bits; then add the walnuts and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped


8 tablespoons cold butter


grate or use pastry blender to cut into small bits and mix with the dry ingredients


1 egg
1 lemon, juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced
 plus water or buttermilk (if not using powder) to total 3/4 cup

Whisk the egg, juice, and water or buttermilk together and just stir into dry ingredients until all moistened

drop large spoonfuls on lined or greased baking sheets; wet your hands and pat into neat rounds 1/2 inch thick, and bake for 20 minutes.  I bake 2 sheets at once in my convection oven and turn front/back and top/bottom at the 10 minute mark.




Edited by Wholemeal Crank Forgot flaxseed, added notes (log)
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