As I recounted in my previous post, my 4-year granddaughter and I made two batches of crackers the other day. She wasn’t a huge fan of the first ones but she tackled the next batch with her energy, cheerfulness and enthusiasm intact. The making is undoubtedly much more important to her than the eating. Why, only the week before, we had made canistrelli. Hers were of the miniature variety (she used a tiny, tiny cookie cutter, of the kind likely designed to make treats for chihuaha puppies) and I had managed to burn every single one of them. The thing is I took them out of the oven ahead of mine and they were too pale. So I stuck them back in and set the timer to 5 minutes. Big mistake! When I next looked they were as black as a moonless and starless night during a power outage and, believe me, I know what I am talking about: I got stuck in New York City during the massive blackout of 2003. They had let us off at work early enough (in fact as soon as the computer screens turned dark) but there was no train or bus home to be had, and as night fell, the wide avenues became gaping tunnels of solid black, giving me a sudden glimpse of what life must have been like before electricity was invented). Anyway to come back to my granddaughter she had been extremely philosophical about my burning her whole batch. Her only comment was that she would come back to make more!
Despite the seeds (caraway this time), she must have liked the rye crackers a tiny bit more than the parmesan cheese and fennel ones: she ate a whole half of one before putting it down. She said it tasted really good.
I had found the recipe in Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry, a terrific book by Hanne Risgaard. If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly recommend your checking it out. I met Hanne’s daughter, Marie-Louise Risgaard, at last year’s Grain Gathering and was utterly charmed by her account of her family’s successful venture into organic milling and baking. My thanks to her and to Hanne for the permission to post the recipe.
- 125 g whole-rye flour
- 125 g whole-wheat flour (I used Blanco Grande flour from Coke Farm in San Juan Bautista)
- 125 g butter
- 6 g caraway seeds (optional)
- 3 g salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 90 g water
- Mix the two types of flour thoroughly; cube the butter and rub it into the flour. Add the caraway seeds, salt and baking soda, and mix thoroughly again.
- Then add the water, and knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Shape it into a ball, cover it in plastic wrap, and leave it in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
- Dust the work surface with flour, and roll out the dough as thinly as possible. Prick the surface thoroughly with a fork or spiked roller.
- Cut the dough into squares (approximately 1.5 x 2 inches long) or use a cookie cutter.
- Place the crackers on sheet pans lined with parchment paper, and bake them (one pan at a time) on the second shelf up for 10 to 12 minutes.
- When the rye crackers are done, place them immediately on a wire rack to cool.
- Store them in an airtight container
Risgaard uses ammonium carbonate and only indicates baking soda as a substitute.
I didn't roll out the dough as thin as indicated.
I sprinkled the crackers with the coarse salt I had forgotten to put on the Italian ones. They were salty but not too salty but of course that is a question of personal taste.
Next time it will be my granddaughter’s turn to choose what we bake. I made several suggestions and she picked chocolate chip cookies. I have the feeling she might actually end up sampling a whole one. Although one never knows. A few years ago I made brownies from scratch with another set of grandchildren who were maybe six and ten at the time. They participated eagerly, stirring butter and chocolate, whisking in eggs, sifting flour and cocoa, but when the brownies came out of the oven and were cool enough to be tasted, the 6-year old demurred. She said she only liked brownies that came from a mix.