Friday, July 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Crackers

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers' Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers!  Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged us to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

When I read this challenge, my mind went immediately to Ritz crackers and wheat thins, the classics.  As a kid, Ritz, my cat, and I used to hang out together after school.  My cat and I could eat a whole tube of those crackers watching television.  I believe that cat liked them just as much as I did.  Today I would never eat them.  Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil is not something anyone should be eating, not to mention all of the other GMO ingredients.  

I found a recipe on the web but it didn't work when I replaced the real butter with a non dairy butter.  The texture was awful.  Sometimes Earth Balance doesn't perform the same way butter does.  I had to make a second batch and I replaced half of the Earth Balance with some Spectrum butter flavored palm shortening and that did the trick.  I use it in pie crusts too so I figured it would work for crackers as well.

I made the dough in a food processor.  First, I pulsed together the unbleached white flour, baking powder, and salt together and then I added the cold non dairy butter and palm shortening.  I pulsed this about fifteen times.  Then I mixed a little rice syrup into a 1/3 cup of water and added that to the flour.  This made a very wet dough so I had to used a really well floured surface to roll out the dough.

Another really important step in making crackers is to poke holes in them.  It helps to make them crispy.  I copied the eight hole pattern that Nabisco uses to make Ritz.

For the second cracker, I used a recipe by the King Arthur Flour Company.  The only substitution that I made was to use Spectrum butter flavored palm shortening instead of butter.  I also added some dried minced onion for flavor.  

Vegan "Ritz" Style Crackers

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons very cold Spectrum Butter Flavored palm shortening
2 tablespoon very cold Earth Balance non dairy butter, divided
1 teaspoon rice syrup
1/3 cup water, or less

Preheat your oven to 400°
Pulse together the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor.
Add 1 tablespoon of butter and the palm shortening and pulse 15 times.
Mix together the rice syrup and water.
Slowly add it to the flour mixture as you pulse it and it comes together
Remove the dough to a very well floured board.
Roll the dough out to about an 1/8 of an inch thick.
Cut out whatever shapes you choose and then poke holes in the center of the crackers.
Bake for 10  minutes or until the edges are golden.  Check them every minute after 10 minutes or they will burn.
While they are cooking, melt the remaining table spoon of Earth Balance to brush on the tops of the crackers when they come out of the oven.