Do you have a go-to appetizer you serve to dinner guests? Just a little something to get folks through the wait for the main event? I tend to keep pre-dinner snacks small and simple; I would much rather be sitting at the dining table with my guests enjoying a salad or soup. But sometimes guests have just arrived from a flight ( which guarantees that they will be hungry) , or a day-long drive. It seems logical that a little sustenance is required. The answer is crackers and cheese. Simple, satisfying, good with a glass of wine, and quick to assemble. But, for special occasions, why not take some time and personalize your snack with homemade crackers? Here are two examples of easy-to-make crackers that will enhance your cheese board. One is a fruit, nut, and herb cracker that pairs with both soft and firm cheese. They are full of flavor and texture and look terrific on a cheese board. The other is a thin and crispy cracker topped with seeds and salt. They can be rolled through a pasta maker and baked in large free-form pieces. Part of the fun is breaking the large crackers into tasty shards to top with your favorite cheese. They would be perfect with soft cheese dips too. Add a little fresh fruit or a savory preserve and everyone will be happy.
Fruit, Nut, and Herb Crisps
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup dark raisins
- 1/4 cup raw , whole almonds, each sliced in half
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole flax seeds
- 1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray 2 mini loaf pans with cooking spray with flour.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Add the buttermilk and honey to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add the fruit, nuts, seeds, and rosemary and fold into the batter until evenly distributed. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops.
Place the pans in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown, and a tester inserted in the middle of a loaf comes out clean.
Remove to a rack to cool in the pans for several minutes. Turn the loaves out onto the rack and let cool completely. When cooled, place the loaves in the freezer for at least 1 hour.
When ready to bake again, preheat the oven to 275°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the loaves from the freezer and slice as thinly as possible. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, turning once at the halfway point. The slices will be crisp and golden brown. Store in an airtight container.
Parchment Flatbread Crackers
- 1/2 cup semolina flour
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour , plus more for dusting and rolling the dough
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon each of white sesame seed , black sesame seed, fennel seed, and poppy seed
- 1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt , or coarse kosher salt
Whisk together the flours and salt in a medium bowl. Add the warm water and stir until a dough forms. If it seems dry, add a few drops more water. Gather the dough into a ball with your hands and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, until smooth but not sticky. Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Place an inverted baking sheet or pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven; preheat to 450°F. Line a separate baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces; wrap each in plastic. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll very thinly on a floured work surface or pass through a pasta roller. The dough should be thin enough to see the work surface though it.
Transfer the dough to the parchment-line sheet. Brush the surface lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with some of the seeds and coarse salt. Lay a sheet of plastic over the dough and gently press the toppings with a rolling pin to adhere to the dough. Remove the plastic and prick the surface of the dough with a fork.
Carefully slide the dough, on the parchment, onto the preheated baking sheet or pizza stone. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until puffed and browned around the edges. You may need to move the parchment around for even browning. Remove to a rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough, oil, seed mixture, and salt. Store crackers in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.