Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crackers & Hummus

One of my favorite websites is 101 Cookbooks.  Her recipes are usually easy and always tasty.  She also has the same addiction I do, cookbooks.  Some people bring home postcards and trinkets from their travels, I bring home cookbooks (but still have far less than 101).  I have been inspired and made a lot of the goodies on her website.  I rarely follow a recipe to the letter.  What I usually do is look up a number of recipes, pick and choose the parts I like and "frankinstein" a recipe together.  Even recipes from the 101 Cookbooks, which is all vegetarian, I figure a way to slip in some meat.  This has to be the easiest recipe on her site and needs no tweaking - Olive Oil Crackers.

For anyone here on the east coast with me, this is a great recipe to make with kids during this extra snowy winter, especially if you are looking for something non-cookie related to do in the kitchen with kids.  The dough is so simple and easy to make (or make them for someone and they will be totally impressed to learn you made the crackers).  The olive oil makes it very easy to handle and clean up.  Also by following her instructions to cut the into 12 pieces, they are very easy to roll out by hand - even by little hands.  Just be sure to let the dough rest at room temp as it says.  You can make big crackers, small crackers, any shaped crackers (cookie cutters work just fine).  And you can customize the topping to your tastes.

My personal preference is just topping my crackers with cracked pepper & kosher salt.  I've made theses a couple times and have some tips for anyone doing them:
  •  I roll the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap sprinkled lightly with whole wheat flour.
  • After I sprinkle the salt & pepper on, I replace the top plastic sheet and roll the rolling pin back over a couple times lightly.  This way the topping does not come off when moving it to the cookie sheet or cooking.
  • Do not forget to poke the dough with a fork before baking.  You can not over poke it.  This is what keeps it cracker like and not puff up on you.
  • I do not have to add anything to keep them from sticking when I use my silpat.  This is a silicon sheet to lay in the baking sheet - it is simply amazing & I use for nearly everything.
  • Do not do ANYTHING else while these are baking.  It is less than one minute between done & charcoal.  I use a timer.  Five minutes when they first go in.  Then turn the pan & another 2 minutes - but this is MY oven, watch yours closely!
These crackers go great with hummus.  Yes, there are some great hummus's out there in the stores, but it is so simple to make your own... not to mention incredibly cheap.  I bough a brand of tahini that I had never had before and was pretty disappointed when I opened the can.  If something is advertised as tahini, it should be just that - sesame paste and NOTHING else.  This has some additional flavors mixed in.  It's not bad, just not something I would buy again.  Now I know I have to actually read the ingredient list on anything labeled tahini.  All you need to make hummus is a can of chickpeas (or chi chi beans as my grandfather called them), tahini, a lemon, and olive oil.  You can add s&p to taste and any other spices you like (this time I added sweet paprika).  A trick I use to make it the smooth consistency I want without having to go too heavy on the olive oil is to reserve some of the liquid from chickpeas (drain them before tossing them in the processor).  If after drizzling in olive oil while it runs it seems to thick or dry, slowly add some of the liquid.  You'll end up with 3 to 4 times the amount some of those store bought hummus tubs.

So now I can curl up in my apartment all warmed up from my oven and snack on my homemade crackers and hummus while watching the snow fall during the snowiest winter Philly has ever seen.

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