Saturday, July 28, 2012

July Daring Baker's 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 to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

I initially didn't care for this challenge.  Once a month, I wanna be surprised by some really difficult challenge and I'm almost always disappointed (initially) when it's not something sweet.  But, I'm coming around.  After reading the challenge, I realized it would be perfect for July!  My family was leaving for our annual beach week on the 21st and, although I'd been asked if I was bringing something, I hadn't committed to bringing sweets.  It seems like everyone in the house has been working on their "beach body," so I wasn't sure how rich, sweet desserts would be received.  But, I knew everyone would go crazy for some crackers!  I decided to make a healthy one and a cheesy one.  I loved them both, although the healthy seed crisps were definitely my favorite.  I never knew how easy it could be to make crackers and also how rewarding!  Plus, the healthy crackers gave me an opportunity to use my pasta roller, which I always love.  Hope you too enjoy making some crackers.

Healthy Seed Crisps

Yield: approximately 50 crackers (2" x 2")


1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) whole wheat four
1 cup (240 ml) 140 gm/5 oz) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (80 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) chia seeds
1/3 cup (80 ml) (40 gm) (1¼ oz) sesame seeds
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (9 gm) table salt
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (8 gm) baking powder
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (195 ml) (6½ fl oz) water


1. Mix the flours, seeds, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
2. Add the oil and stir until combined.
3. Add the water until the dough comes together.
4. Kneed the dough 5 or 6 times and allow to rest, covered, on the counter for 15 minutes. You can also chill the dough at this point and come back later.
5. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.
6. Working with a quarter of the dough at a time, either use a rolling pin to reach a desired thickness (thick or thin) or roll out in your pasta rollers. If you use pasta rollers, ensure the dough is well-floured so as not to stick.  I used a pasta roller and didn't go any thinner than the thickest setting.

7. Place strips of dough on a sheet pan lined with parchment.

8. Bake for 7 minutes, flip them over and bake for 7 minutes more. Then cut or break into crackers shapes while still warm. Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until crispy.
9. If not crispy enough when cooled, crackers can be returned to the oven.
10. Store in an airtight container and eat within 2 weeks.

Cheddar, Rosemary and Walnut Icebox Crackers

Yield: approximately 48 crackers


½ cup (120 ml) (1 stick) (115 gm/4 oz) butter, well softened
2¼ cups (540 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) grated aged cheddar cheese, firmly packed
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (285 ml) (190 gm/6oz) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) (60 gm/2 oz) finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (1¾ gm) finely chopped rosemary


1. Combine butter, rosemary and cheese in a stand mixer and beat well.
2. Add the flour, salt and nuts and stir to combine.
3. Form the dough into two tight logs and wrap with plastic wrap.
4. Chill for at least an hour and up to several days. The log can be frozen at this point for several months.
5. Heat the oven to 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
6. Slice a log into 5mm (1/5 inch) coins and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
7. Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown.
8. Store in an airtight container and eat within three days.

***I used a combination of walnuts and pecans for this recipe, since I ran out of walnuts.  Be creative, though!  Feel free to use your own favorites - cheeses, nuts/no nuts, add spices, etc.***

Monday, July 9, 2012

Homemade Oreo Cookies

I've been wanting to try this for a long while... Thanks to my friend Cheryl for suggesting it as a possible baking activity during my visit last week. Alas, with all of the swimming, dining, sporting events and wine tastings, we did not manage to fit it in. However, the spark was ignited! I checked my pantry yesterday so I could make a grocery run if I needed to. Cocoa powder, check. Butter, check. Powdered sugar, check. A little cream, check. Flour, sugar, leavener, check! Next I had to decide if I wanted to try to make these using solely cocoa powder or add in some melted chocolate. Seeing as it was 105 degrees outside when I was getting started, I decided to forego any additional heat-generating activity! What follows is the recipe I used... 

Homemade Oreo Cookie
(liberally adapted from One Girl Cookies)

Yield: about 4 dozen sandwiched cookies

1.5 cups(3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1.5 cups (12 oz) sugar
2 eggs
1.5 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/8 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons salt

Cream the softened butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Sift together (or just whisk) the flour, the cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, then add to the batter and blend on low just until combined. You may need to scrape the bowl to incorporate all ingredients. Divide the dough in half, and put each half between two long pieces of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin (or heck, a wine bottle works too) to roll out the soft dough between the plastic wrap. Put the rolled dough sheets on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least an hour to chill. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350. Once the oven is at temp, remove the chilled dough and use a cookie cutter (about 2 inches) to cut round cookies. Move them to a parchment-paper lined sheet pan and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Sandwich with the filling below. 

Cream Filling

 0.5 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 oz half and half (or 1 T each of milk and/or cream)
0.5 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar (about 15 oz)

Cream butter with half-and-half, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time and mix on low until incorporated. Transfer to a piping bag with a wide round tip and pipe on one side of the sandwich cookie. **Note: This filling has a high powdered sugar content for the butter, which balances nicely with the not-so-sweet cookie. However, it will crust up if left out uncovered, so make it just before you use it and cover any remaining while you work.***