Week Fourteen: Take Two!
Here we are, at week fourteen. It’s the last week of March, and has therefore been three months since I began this project. And I tell you what, it has really flown by! It seems like just the other day that I uttered those fateful words, “What if I made a different bread, every day, for a year?” But though not much time has passed, I have learned so, so much about breadmaking in these few months. Yes, I went to culinary school for Baking and Pastry Arts, but bread was not really emphasized. As long as we students could follow a recipe and produce an edible loaf, we got a pass.
But as it turns out, consistently producing good loaves of bread is a little harder than just following a recipe! Understanding what the dough looks like, what the dough feels like, and how you handle it… well, you can’t learn that from any book. You just have to roll up your sleeves, mix up some flour and water, and get your hands in that dough!
And that leads me to my theme for this week. You see, one of the drawbacks to my original idea – make a different recipe of bread every day – is that it denied me the luxury of trying things again, of having another go at it to make it better the second (or third) time around. I could see things that I had done wrong, but had no opportunity to try to correct myself. So I decided that the last week of every quarter should be devoted to re-doing my mistakes. I get to pick six recipes to have another chance at, and see if I can’t improve myself a bit. Nice!
The first recipe for this week is one I was particularly disappointed at myself with: spelt crackers. I had made that one in a hurry, when I was quite stressed. I think that probably had a lot to do with how tough they came out; I handled that dough in a very unkind manner. I remembered the flavor being nice enough, but the texture was just awful! So tough! I wanted to see if I could be a little nicer the second time around.
Anxious to avoid the over-rolling that had done me in the first time, I actually left these a little thick, and didn’t bake them quite long enough. So they still ended up a little hard to eat, but only because they were thick and hard, not because they were tough. A little success, but still a bit disappointing. I was loath to use too much flour in rolling out, trying to avoid drying the crackers out, but that meant I could only roll so thin before the dough stuck resolutely to the rolling pin. Next time, I think I would roll this dough out between two sheets of wax paper (not parchment, I think) to help with that. Conversely, if you have a pasta machine, you could absolutely roll them out with that to a perfect thickness.
One thing I love about these crackers is that any seed or spice you top them with changes the flavor incredibly! The first time, I used dried mint; but this time, I went with a favorite mixture of mine, poppy seeds with black and white sesame seeds. Both were good, and I would love to try these with a dusting of ground cumin, or fennel seed. If you’re serving these crackers with cheese, you don’t need any extra salt, but if you’re planning on eating them plain, I would recommend a light sprinkling of a good coarse salt. So here, again, is the recipe for Spelt Crackers. I hope you enjoy it the second time around as much as I do!
Adapted from the Hungry Ghost, via the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen
Makes 1 large cracker sheet
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour, plus more for flouring surface
Coarse sea salt and seeds of your choice
1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Dissolve the salt in 1/2 cup of cold water. Stir in the spelt flour until combined. Knead the dough a few turns until a ball forms.
2. Flour an overturned 12-by-17-inch cookie sheet and roll out the dough on top of it, using as much flour as needed to prevent sticking, until the dough covers the sheet from edge to edge. Do your best to get them as thin as possible, because the thicker parts become quite hard when baked. Using a spray bottle filled with water, spray the dough to give it a glossy finish. Prick the dough all over with a fork. If you choose, sprinkle with sea salt or seeds. For neat crackers, score the dough into grids.
3. Bake until the dough is crisp and golden and snaps apart, 15 to 25 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes to make sure it does not overcook.) Break into pieces and serve.
1. White spelt flour can be found at Whole Foods, or your favorite local natural foods grocery.
2. Once again, don’t roll this dough out too thinly! It will get tough! But don’t leave it too thick either; it’ll be hard to bite through! How much is just right? I’m not sure, and I do apologize. Try it a couple of different ways – it’s so easy to throw together, why not?