Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen:
Crackers & Dips

Have you ever made homemade crackers? If you have to resort to store-bought, what’s your favorite cracker brand and type?

Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of guest blogger Ivy Manning’s wonderful, newly released cookbook Crackers & Dips: More Than 50 Handmade Snacks (giveaway good in the US and Canada only).

I’m a food writer and recipe developer, which is a fairly lonely job—I spend most of my time at my keyboard and in my kitchen, alone. That’s why I love throwing big parties; I relish having company around cooking. I am a feeder.

When it came time for me to throw a “launch party” for my Chronicle cookbook Crackers and Dips, my inner feeder really came out. I made double of 12 kinds of crackers and 4 dips from my book. I baked for 3 days, and loved every second of it. I staged the party at the Cheese Bar in Portland, Oregon, a cheese shop of stupendous quality and charm (I secretly dream of being locked inside overnight someday). So in addition to all the crackers, there was cheese, charcuterie, and chutneys, oh my!

Launch parties are a bit nerve racking, especially if you’re at all high-strung (who, me?). Think about it: invite 70 of the best and brightest food writers, chefs, bakers, and foodcentrics from your community to a party and then cook for them. Eek!

It’s something akin to seeing your child perform on stage: You’re petrified for them, you pray they do well, but in the end, you have to just sit back and let them go on. And then you hear the audience’s applause (or “yums” in my case), you swell with pride, and you leave knowing that all the hard work and practice were worth it. There’s your baby, out on its own, looking delicious and making people happy. Wow!

I’ve included a recipe for everyone’s favorite cracker from the launch party, Swedish Caraway Rye Crisps for you to try. They’re as easy as mixing together flour and water, and they’ve got an addictive snap and a earthy caraway flavor that makes them perfect for topping with smoked salmon, or better yet, Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Dip from my book. After the first crunch, I know you’ll never go back to store-bought crackers again, promise!

Swedish Caraway Rye Crisps

I fell head over heels in love with dark, crisp rye crackers during a recent trip to Scandinavia. Every morning, my husband and I sat down with his gracious relatives who offered us hearty breakfasts of rye crisps topped with a tantalizing array of gorgeous smoked and pickled fish. It seemed an odd way to start the day at first, but we were quickly hooked. Now the smørbrød breakfast has become something of a weekend ritual in our house; there’s nothing better than lingering over the newspaper while nibbling on gravlax, herring, cheese, and pickles mounded on crisp rye crackers.

These crackers keep really well, so I often make a double batch and give them as gifts, packed into decorative jars or boxes with a jar of Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Dip or Fresh Artichoke Dip (both featured in the book) alongside to decorate them.

Makes 30 crackers

1 cup/115 g dark rye flour
1 cup/125 g unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground caraway seeds
2 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-in/6-mm cubes
1/2 cup/120 ml whole milk
1 tbsp molasses
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
2 tsp caraway seeds

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/ gas 6. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. In a food pro­cessor or large bowl, combine the rye flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and ground caraway and pulse or whisk to combine. Add the butter and pulse or rub with your fingers until the butter is in tiny pieces and the mixture resembles fine cornmeal, 15 one-second pulses.

In a measuring cup with a spout, combine the milk and molasses and stir until the molasses has completely dissolved. Gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and pulse or stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, about 25 strokes. The dough will be slightly sticky; add flour only as necessary. Divide the dough into two balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to this point and stored in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 days.)

Run the dough through a pasta maker following the instruc­tions on page 13 until the dough is about 1/16 in/2 mm thick, the 5 setting on most pasta makers. Alternatively, pat one ball of dough into a small rect­angle and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until the dough is 1/16 in/2 mm thick, lifting the dough and rotating occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking, and adding flour only as necessary.

Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut the dough into long 2-in-/5-cm-wide strips; reserve any scraps. Transfer the strips to a prepared baking sheet and repeat the process of rolling and cutting with the remaining dough and scraps.

Brush the crackers lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle them with the caraway seeds. Using the bottom of a mea­suring cup, press down gently to adhere the seeds to the crackers. Prick the crackers with a fork or comb. Use a pastry wheel or pizza cutter to cut the strips crosswise into 4-in-/10-cm-long crackers.

Bake until the crackers are golden brown around the edges and no longer pliable, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once from top to bottom and from back to front while baking. Watch carefully to make sure the crackers do not burn. Cool the crackers on racks and store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Purchase: Crackers & Dips: More Than 50 Handmade Snacks.

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Ivy Manning

Ivy Manning is an award-winning food writer and the author of seven cookbooks, including Crackers and Dips (Chronicle Books, 2013). She develops recipes for national magazines and food brands, paints food and critter watercolor greeting cards, and fends off the slugs in her veggie garden in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at ivymanning.com, or on Instagram (@Ivy_Manning) and Twitter (@Ivysfeast).
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18 Comments

  • Kathy May 1, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    I've never made homemade crackers, though I've been thinking of giving it a try. This recipe looks great and I have some rye flour on hand now, so this might be the one to try! My family tends to like the rosemary triscuits when we do buy crackers (and goldfish for the kids), but I always like knowing what's in my food, so homemade seems the way to go. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    Reply

  • Laurel May 2, 2013 at 4:47 am

    I have a very basic whole wheat cracker recipe that I break out for entertaining. My guests are surprised that you can make crackers at home, but pleased with the taste!

    Reply

  • Gina Monge May 2, 2013 at 6:03 am

    I've made graham crackers before, but I haven't made savory crackers yet. I'd like to try making the Swedish caraway rye crisps this weekend!

    Reply

  • Laurin Gibson May 2, 2013 at 7:12 am

    I love the idea of making your own crackers.That will mean you will know exactly what is in them and no preservatives! It will be more work, but definitely worth the effort. I hope some of the recipes can be made in advance, like icebox cookies, and then baked the day you actually need them. Plus I need more ideas for dips and step away from the usual standbys.

    Reply

    • Ivy Manning May 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      Hi Laurin
      Yes! I've got loads of make-ahead recipes in the book, so you can make the dough and bake the crackers whenever is convenient, ala icebox cookies. My favorites are the Irish Blue Cheese and Walnut Shortbreads.

      Reply

  • Robin Asbell May 2, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Wish I had been there to taste all your crackers! I keep boxes of the organic version of Wheat Thin-style crackers in the cupboard, for those nights when we need to eat simply.
    Love the photo of you holding the "winning hand" of crackers!

    Reply

  • Anne May 2, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I like wheat-free crackers. So glad you included recipes for them in your book!!

    Reply

  • kat May 2, 2013 at 10:07 am

    For entertaining, I'm a big fan of the delicate rosemary-scented 34° Crisps. Especially paired with anything creamy. If I were to make my own crackers, my biggest interest would be in my guilty pleasure convenience store grabs–anything cheese flavored (like Cheezits!) or Saltines. Congrats on the new book!

    Reply

  • Jamie Ryan Lockman May 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    The first time I had homemade crackers was in Beaune, France – What a revelation! Who knew that you didn't have to use cardboard to go along with a delicious chevre?! I look forward to the cookbook and trying inspired recipes –

    Reply

  • ikki Pacheco Theard May 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I have never made my own crackers, and am certain that if I did, not only would the homemade crackers be so yummy, my friends and family would also be big fans. Many people now avoid gluten, and by using your recipes I'd be able to offer a tempting gluten- free choice for my guests. Thanks for the wonderful book, it's going to help make entertaining this Spring and Summer a lot of fun.

    Reply

  • sasha kaplan May 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I have always been a big fan of rye crisps. They seem to go equally well with smoked fish spreads and my favorite cheeses with a shmear of fig-balsamic jam I make.
    I made my own goldfish crackers. That was fun. and my tastiest homemade ones I have tried are a blue cheese-walnut shortbread. but I have to make lots since I cannot stop eating them.

    Reply

  • nik May 8, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Yumza! Thank you for sharing the recipe…those Semolina Cracker Sheets look fabulous too!
    When I was a kid I used to love helping Mom with her dinner parties…she always let me put together the cheese and cracker trays and I loved arranging all the different kinds of crackers. The savory salty smells and seed-covered textures of everything from "Sociables" to locally made Lavosh will always be deliciously implanted in my happy memories. 🙂

    Reply

  • Emily May 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Those sound super tasty! I wonder if the recipe would work with vegan substitutes for the dairy and eggs? I've never tried making my own crackers. Guess I should give it a try!

    Reply

  • slampkin718 May 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Wow, this looks great! I've never made home-made crackers. I think I'll try this recipe!

    Reply

  • charj May 15, 2013 at 11:40 am

    This book sounds like a winner. I am interested in learning how to make crispy, crunchy crackers.

    Reply

  • @wirechairs May 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    …the lucky randomly selected winner is: kat! Congrats! And happy cracker making to all.

    Reply

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