There are lots of cracker recipes available online, but many of them involve a lot more fuss than I’m willing to invest in something my family will snarf down before I get all the batches out of the oven. The recipes below involve a minimum of fuss and yield delicious crackers that are better tasting, better for you, and definitely less expensive than crackers in the supermarket.
The only special tools you need to make crackers are a large cookie sheet, a roll of natural parchment paper or a silicone liner sheet to fit inside it (Silpat is a good brand), and a rolling pin. If you don't have a rolling pin, you can repurpose a clean wine bottle to roll out your dough.
For my cracker recipes, I usually use freshly ground Prairie Gold wheat (a special variety of whole wheat that has a lighter color and is less strongly flavored than most whole wheats, and it is not a refined or unbleached), which you can find in many stores sold as white whole wheat flour. Buy whole grain flours at a store with a high turnover rate or one that keeps them in a refrigerator. To keep your flour fresh, store it in the freezer.
The cracker recipes below are basic—delicious as written, but also a great starting point for inventing your own personal favorites. Try different types of flours, or melted butter instead of olive oil; add seeds or herbs to the dough, or brush the top of the raw crackers with milk and sprinkle them with seeds before baking.
Whole Wheat Matzoh or Water Crackers
Crackers at their very simplest!
Makes: 4 large matzoh
1½ cups organic whole wheat flour
½ cup warm water
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Put the flour in a medium bowl and add most of the water. Stir and mash with a heavy spoon until blended and it makes a doughy lump. If your dough is still crumbly, add more water, a few drops at a time, until it comes together. Put your silicone sheet on your work surface, turn the dough out onto it, and knead it for a few minutes until it becomes elastic and doesn’t crumble when you fold it. If it sticks to your hands, sprinkle a little bit of flour over your dough, rub your hands clean, and keep kneading. Cut the ball into four equal parts. At one end of the silicone sheet, roll one part out as thin as you can into a rough rectangle about 8 inches by 10 inches. Do your best to get the dough as evenly thin as you can, as the thinner areas will cook faster than the thicker ones. Roll out a second ball at the other end of the sheet. Professional matzoh makers have a vicious-looking spiked device called a pastry docker, which they use to poke tiny holes all over the surface of raw matzoh, but you can get the same effect using a fork to poke holes every ½ inch all over the surface. Slide the sheet onto your cookie pan and bake the crackers for 3 to 4 minutes, just until the edges start to turn golden brown. Watch carefully; they get too brown really fast! Pull the pan out, flip the crackers over, and back for 1 more minute or less. Remove from the oven and put the matzohs on a rack to cool. Repeat with the three remaining lumps of dough. Enjoy right away or store in airtight container for up to a month.
Organic Thin Wheat Crackers
These are similar to Nabisco Wheat Thins, but without the refined flour and unpronounceable ingredients.
Makes: about 40 crackers
1½ cups organic whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey
Extra salt for sprinkling on the tops (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the flour and the salt in a medium mixing bowl, add the oil, and stir. Mash the mixture with a heavy spoon until it is completely blended and looks like cornmeal. Dissolve the honey in the water and pour most of it over the flour mixture. Stir and mash until it all comes together into a doughy lump. If it is still crumbly, add more of the honey-water mixture, a few drops at a time, until the dough comes together. Put your silicone sheet on your work surface, turn the dough out onto it, and knead it for a few minutes until it becomes elastic and doesn’t crumble when you fold it. Form the dough into a log in the center of the sheet, flatten it a bit with your hands, and then roll it out with the rolling pin to make a thin layer almost as large as the sheet. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, dust the rolling pin with a little flour or put a second silicone sheet or length of parchment paper on top of the dough, and roll over that (peel off the top layer once you’re done rolling). Pressing gently so you don’t cut the sheet underneath, use a dull knife or a pizza cutter to score the dough into crackers. I make mine into 1¼-inch squares. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Slide the sheet onto your cookie pan, pop it in the oven, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, snap the crackers apart and turn them over, and return the pan to the oven for a few minutes more to brown the bottoms. (Note: Watch the edges carefully so they don’t get too brown) Cool, enjoy, and store in an airtight jar for up to two weeks.
Organic Cheesy Wheat Tidbits
Makes: about 3 cups of Goldfish-size diamonds
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1½ to 2 Tablespoons water
Proceed as for thin wheat crackers. After combining the oil with the dry ingredients, add the grated cheese a little at a time. Mash and stir it into your dough with a spoon before adding more, and gradually add a little at a time until it is all mashed in. Add the water a little at a time until the dough just holds together. Knead the dough a few times (it won’t get elastic, as there is too much cheese, but it will get a bit less crumbly). Roll it out thin and make parallel cuts in the dough about ½ inch apart in one direction, then turn the pan 45 degrees and make cuts about ½ inch apart again to form small diamonds. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven, flip crackers over, and bake for 5 minutes more, until the thinner parts start to turn golden brown. Break apart, cool, and enjoy. Store in an airtight jar for up to a week (if you can resist them that long). This cracker is also good cut into long strips, similar to cheese sticks, to serve with a meal.
Farm gal, library worker, and all-around money-pincher Jean Nick shares advice for green thrifty living every Thursday on Rodale.com.