Thursday, October 11, 2012

Barley & Wine Crackers

Dawn Woodward, owner of Evelyn's Crackers in Toronto, Canada, and the author of this recipe baked at the Kneading Conference West 2012: inspired by the flavors of Greek biscotti and Baco Noir, an Ontario wine, they are are among her favorites although she no longer offers them for sale.

They can be baked as sheets and broken off in odd pieces after baking or they can be pre-cut with a pizza cutter and separated neatly afterwards. Your choice... I tried both and I thought the triangles were prettier and really not much more work but it is a matter of personal preference. Either way, they come out crispy and flavorful. The fragrance of the red wine is clearly discernable, boosted by the hint of exotic spices and the heat of the black pepper: I can understand getting addicted.
Probably written with a crowd in mind, the recipe printout distributed at the Conference would have yielded way too many crackers, so I simply halved everything and still got plenty. Also it may have contained a typo: when I added up the weights of all the liquids, I found that it called for more liquids than solids which doesn't seem the way to go for crackers. So I added in more flour. I used white whole wheat instead of regular whole wheat. I decreased by one third the amount of spice but you can add it back if you like really bold flavors. What follows is my adaptation of Dawn's recipe.

Ingredients:
  • 700 g white whole wheat flour (I used Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill's)* 
  • 165 g barley flour (I used Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill's)
  • 20 g fine sea salt
  • 10 g quatre-épice blend (or you can mix and match cinnamon, black pepper and clove according to your taste)
  • 75 g red wine (all I had left) + 50 g water (or 125 g red wine, if you have it)
  • 125 g extra-virgin olive oil
  • 20 g wildflower honey
  • 450 g water, at room temperature
Method:
  1. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Combine all the liquids
  3. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids while continuously stirring
  4. When the mixture gets too thick to stir, turn out onto the table and knead until smooth and soft (Dawn notes that the dough will be pliable but slightly clay-like due to the barley flour)
  5. Let rest 10 minutes then divide in 50 g balls and roll out into long ovals (Dawn suggests 75 g but when I rolled out the bigger balls, I got ovals that were too long for my half-sheet baking pans). Another option is to divide the dough in 150g balls and roll it out directly onto parchment paper 
  6. Optional: dock or prick all over with a fork (I found the crackers baked more evenly that way) and pre-cut in desired shape with a pizza cutter
  7. Place on parchment or bake directly on tiles in pre-heated 375°F/191°C oven
  8. Bake until crisp (start checking after 10 minutes)
  9. Cool on a rack
  10. Enjoy!

* I used to bake a lot more with white whole wheat flour when I first introduced whole grain breads to my family but I had pretty much stopped doing so a couple of years ago: I found it too bland and by then everyone had gotten used to the fact that I would put in some whole grain in most breads and had actually learned to enjoy the taste.
But then I discovered Fairhaven's white whole wheat flour: it is still very mild (certainly not as flavorful as some of the red wheats I love so much) but it is speckled with bran which makes it both beautiful and fiber-rich and I find it a good substitute for all-purpose flour in many recipes where wheat doesn't play a starring role.
I realize many of you live too far away to have access to this particular flour but there may be a mill in your neighborhood or a natural food store selling bulk artisanal flours and it might be worth a look in case in case you'd like to try your hand at baking with stone-milled white whole wheat.
As for me, I like supporting my local mill, mostly because the miller, Kevin Christensen, is committed to organic grain: he is a firm believer in sustainable agriculture and by sustainable agriculture, he means organic farming. Living right on the Washington Coast as he does, he witnesses first-hand the damages chemical run-offs cause to fragile marine and river ecosystems: it happens regularly that beaches are closed and shellfish harvesting prohibited because of toxic algae blooms. So he works hand in hand with farmers and bakers to promote the demand for organic grains as a way to support healthy farmlands. That is a goal I can relate to.


These barley & wine crackers are being sent to Susan for Yeastspotting.

5 comments:

  1. lovely post MC. and lovely crackers. loved especially the digression about white whole wheat. the white wheat flour I generally use looks very similar to the one you photographed here, must be because is stone-ground, so some of the bran is left there. my little one is still far from liking "heavy" whole grain breads so I still use more white flour than I would in my baking, but at least is organic and not totally white. oh, and nice shots!

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  2. Hello Barbara, yes, I am sure your stoneground white flour is much more nutritious than the regular AP flour to be found in supermarkets. The white whole wheat we have here is actually a wholegrain flour from a white variety of wheat but I seem to remember we talked about that before and you said it wasn't available in Sweden.
    I made the Real Rye Bread from Hanne Risgaard's book and it is truly awesome! Since it was my first time making it, I used my own regular rye starter (and consequently way less water than indicated) but I followed her suggestion of setting aside 400 g of the dough for next time and using that as a starter then and I am very much looking forward to seeing the resulting changes in taste and texture as I am sure there will be some. The flavor is truly fantastic. I may use soaked and slightly sprouted whole rye berries next time instead of the rye chops, simply because the rye bread I loved so much in olden days Denmark was chokeful of grain. So glad for the book! Although, like you, I really deplore the fact that there are no crumb shots... It would help to compare what we get to what Hanne gets.

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    1. whole grain and finely ground flour we can find here but only for rye and spelt and they always contain some wheat (don't ask me why, it drives me crazy that they mix). this is one reason why I do need to start milling myself. only, I read some criticism to the cute stone mills I had my eye on, they say the stones could contain alluminium (and some say also good sounding mills could use stones containing alluminium). I have for now resolved to get just a simple device for my kitchen assistant. a metal mill, oh well, not as sexy but maybe safer. and... I made Risgaard's bread too :) posting it on Tuesday (for wbd). it's nice to be back (and I have so many of your posts to catch up with! baci

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  3. Hi MC. Many thanks for this post. Unfortunately my local mill where i get all the nice organic flour and grains just replaced the stone mill by a new metal ones (new for him is 30 years old metal mill). I will definitely give this recipe a try - but i am not sure if there is some wine left over for the recipe - i guess i have to negotiate with my wife....

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  4. Hi MC,
    What a gorgeous stack of crackers and they tasted every bit as good as they look!
    :^) breadsong

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