Basic Crackers, Breadsticks, and Flatbread from Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it And Other Cooking Projects

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the cracker tops

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for the cracker tops

1 egg

1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil, like canola or sunflower (or for a stronger flavor, olive oil)

¼ to ½ cup cold water

 

In a large bowl or food processor, mix the 2 cups of flour, baking powder, sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper.  In another bowl or pyrex measuring cup, lightly beat the egg and oil.  Slowly stir the egg and oil mixture into the dry ingredients in the bowl, or combine in the processor and pulse, until the dough starts to form a coarse meal.  Add the water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together and you can form it into a single ball.

 

On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough in half.  Shape each piece into a square about 12 inches wide.  Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly oil 2 baking sheets and dust with flour.

 

Roll out one piece of dough, trying to maintain its square shape, until it reaches a thickness of 1/8 to ¼ inch.  The desired thickness can vary to your taste; note that the thinner the cracker, the crisper and more delicate it will be.  (Note:  I inadvertently skipped this step the first time I made it and it worked fine, so I did it again.  In order to get my dough into a 12-inch square before refrigerating, I had to roll it out, which formed it into a nice slab of dough, though barely an 1/8 of an inch.  I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the dough on top of that, then did it with the second square as well, and covered the baking sheet with plastic wrap.  I rolled it a tiny bit after it had chilled, but the dough is fine to work with before refrigerating.)  Lightly prick the dough all over, ever half inch or so, with the tines of a fork.  Lightly brush the top with water, sprinkle with additional salt, pepper, or other flavors (see variations), then give it 1 or 2 more gentle rolls with the floured rolling pin to press the toppings into the dough.

 

Cut the dough into the desired shape:  for tiny snack crackers, score into 1-inch squares; for hors d’ouvre crackers, cut into 2 by 3-inch rectangles; for breadsticks, cut into long skinny straws; and for flatbread, simply slice the rolled-out dough into 6 equal pieces per square.  For round, or more uniform, stylish crackers, cut them out with a decorative cookie cutter or shot glass.  If you’re using a decorative stamp, use it now.

 

Carefully transfer the crackers onto the prepared baking sheets using a scraper or spatula.  Bake for 8 to 20 minutes, until evenly browned.  Check the crackers after 8 minutes; their cooking time will vary by size and thickness.  Small, snack-size crackers might be ready, whereas flatbread could require longer.  Note that all the crackers might not be done at the same time – those around the edges of the baking sheet might cook more quickly.

 

Storage.  Cool the crackers completely, and store in an airtight container up to 1 week or more.  These crackers also freeze beautifully for several months.  Let them sit at room temperature for 2 hours before use. 

Variations.  Rich cheese crackers:  Add 3 cups shredded cheese – Cheddar, Asiago, or Parmesan cheese or any combination thereof – along with ¼ cup ground almonds and 1 teaspoon powdered mustard after you’ve mixed the wet ingredients with the dry.

 

Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers:  Replace the neutral oil with olive oil, and add 1 teaspoon chopped and dried rosemary to the dough after adding the water.

 

Sesame, Poppy Seed, and Onion Crackers:  Sauté about 1 cup minced yellow onion and 1 teaspoon salt in a tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until very brown.  Cool slightly and add to the dough before adding the water.  Before cutting, top the crackers with 2 tablespoons each poppy seeds and sesame seeds along with the salt.

   
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