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This should be the season of holiday entertaining, with a house full of fine friends, tasty snacks, and a tipple or two. But with the Covid restrictions continuing to keep party plans on hold, gatherings are looking a lot different this Christmas.
However, this doesn’t mean the snacking has to stop. Quite the contrary. Whether you’re feeding a family of four, or it’s just you and your cat, nothing beats nibbling on cheese and crackers in front of the Christmas tree.
Homemade crackers are a cinch to make, taste delicious and are perfect for gift giving. Package some of these up alongside a hunk of good cheese, or even a homemade cheeseball, and drop them off for the loved ones you can’t visit with right now. Gifting homemade snacks is one way to make things merry and bright, in a time when we need it the most.
Crackers go hand in hand with meat and cheese, and while in the deli section you’ve likely noticed how pricey those artisan fruit and nut crackers are. They’re almost as much as a hunk of good cheese. To save some bucks and learn a new kitchen skill, making your own crackers is a great way to get creative in the kitchen. Plus, you know what you’re putting into the recipe, and you can customize the flavours as you like based on what’s in the pantry.
For this recipe I mixed some barley flour into regular all-purpose. I like the taste of barley flour in baking, plus there’s extra nutrients and fibre. You can use whole wheat or spelt as well. Next up is the dried fruit. I used the dried cranberries but dried cherries, apricots, figs, even raisins would be a good choice. Nuts can be whatever you have on hand. I usually keep them in the freezer, and low and behold, I found a bag of walnuts near the back. Pecans, almonds, hazelnuts would all be excellent.
I like a little seed action in my crackers so I used sesame, pumpkin and ground flax. If I had poppy seeds in the house, they would have been in there too. I added a little bit of this and that from the spice cabinet, but feel free to switch these up as you like.
Buttermilk is the star of the show here, as it helps to create little air bubbles when combined with the baking soda. A simple loaf is made, baked, frozen and then sliced into thin crackers, which are then baked again. These are like the biscotti of the cracker world.
It’s hard not to pluck the crackers off the baking sheet while they are cooling, but try to save some for that charcuterie tray. Each loaf makes about two dozen crackers, but if your house is like my house, they won’t last long.
Cranberry Walnut Artisan Crackers
1 cup barley or whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 Tbsp whole flaxseed
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. You can also use 8×4-inch loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients (flour to pepper).
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, brown sugar, maple syrup, and lemon zest. Add this to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
4. Divide the batter between the loaf pans, smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Sprinkle the flax seeds on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled, wrap the loaves tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for at least two hours, or overnight.
5. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves (they should still be partially frozen) as thinly as possible, ideally 1/8-inch thick. Place the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, flip over, and rotate the pans from top to bottom. Bake for another 15 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks.
Store crackers in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for up to four months. Each loaf makes about 44 crackers.
Note: You can also use mini loaf pans, reducing baking time to 20-25 minutes.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020