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Perhaps cracker making has become more of a lost skill than bread baking. And yet, to make homemade crackers is one of the easiest and least time intensive forms of baking. Like the taste of a vegetable from the garden, the simplicity and freshness of a cracker from a home kitchen is a humble pleasure, and one that need not be forgotten—or never experienced. These thin wafers are plain good to eat.
You will also need:
1. A food processor is a convenient option for mixing the dough and one was used to make the photographed crackers. The directions below describe both how to make the dough with a processor and by hand.
2. A large mixing bowl.
3. A rolling pin and pastry board.
4. A biscuit cutter: a 2-inch round cutter will make about 3 dozen crackers, or possibly up to 4 dozen. After having made these little crackers once, you realize how thinly the dough will roll out without difficulty.
5. A small, rimmed baking sheet or baking pan large enough to hold the sesame seeds in a single layer.
6. 1 or 2 large flat baking sheets.
7. A cooling rack.
For the crackers:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (unless you are preparing the dough a day or two in advance; in which case you don’t need to preheat now!).
2. Pour the sesame seeds out onto the rimmed baking pan in a single layer and toast them until they are golden, for perhaps 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool them completely.
3. If you are using a food processor, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper and pour the sifted mixture into the processor. Cut the cold butter into bits, add it to the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is well incorporated into the dry ingredients and the mixture becomes ‘mealy-looking’. If making the dough by hand, sift the flour, baking powder and salt directly into the mixing bowl and rub the cold bits of butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture becomes fine-textured like cornmeal.
4. With the processor turned on, add milk to the mixture, a tablespoon at a time through the feed tube until the mixture balls and forms a dough. If making it by hand, add milk by tablespoons, working the mixture into a dough with one hand as you add milk with the other. Using either method, the dough formed by the mixture should be neither crumbly nor sticky, but in between the two and a little on the stiff side. Add up to 1 additional tablespoon of milk if necessary to get this consistency.
5. If the dough has been mixed in the processor, transfer it to a bowl. If making the dough by hand, the dough is already in a bowl. Either way, add the toasted sesame seeds and mix them in with your hands, roughly squeezing the dough and kneading in the seeds until they are distributed throughout the dough. The dough may be made up to this point a day or two in advance, wrapped and chilled. Chilled dough will require a little time to sit at room temperature and soften before rolling out and cutting.
6. When ready to prepare the crackers, sprinkle a little flour on the pastry board. Divide the dough in half. Roll out the first half as thinly as possible, about “a sesame seed thick”. The dough is easy to work since it isn’t sticky and will roll out into a very thin sheet.
7. Cut rounds from the dough with the biscuit cutter. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet. The crackers don’t expand during baking and need not be spaced too far apart on the sheet. In the same way, roll out the second half of the dough and cut rounds. Gather up the scraps, re-roll them into a sheet, and cut more rounds. Continue making crackers until all the dough is used.
8. Brush the rounds with beaten egg and bake them until they are golden. A reasonable estimate is 12-15 minutes of baking.
9. Cool the crackers on a rack. Store them in an airtight container if they aren’t used on the day of baking.
An Acknowledgement: Benne (Sesame) Seed Cocktail Crackers is adapted from Mr. Rick McDaniel’s recipe for Benne Wafers on his site ‘Chef Rick’s Southern Cooking’ at chefrick.com. Mr. McDaniel is a journalist and food historian and his site is a good introduction to different styles of cooking in the American South.
Nancy is the Coupon Clipping Cook, which means she not only has an astounding number of recipes to share with us (her TK recipe box is busting at the seams!) but she's also got loads of money-saving tips in her blog (she worked at a grocery store for a number of years, so she knows her stuff). She has some pretty amazing creations, like Roasted Garlic Potato Soup and Nutty Coconut Chicken. Go check them out!
Heather is a Texas native and the blogger behind Heather's Dish. She's mom to Weston, wife to Nate, and they live in Little Rock, Arkansas with their two "stubborn and saucy" dogs Bunker and Keira. In her blog, she shares her photographs, random musings (serious and silly alike), and all kinds of scrumptious recipes---and not just evil variations of her favorite mac and cheese. Her enviable TK recipe box is a testament to that. Go see for yourself!