Thin Wheats

My toddler, who may well have the metabolism of a hummingbird, is a major grazer. Rather than coming to me when he gets hungry, he just looks around for something crunchy to feed to himself. Since we don’t really keep purchased snack food here, usually he ends up with his arm down a box of cereal, but occasionally he goes after a whole apple or raw potato (!). Knowing these tendencies, I try to keep a supply of dried fruit, nuts, and homemade graham crackers on hand for him, but making the latter gets old after a while, and I start looking around for other relatively healthy snack recipes. Nolan loved lavash crackers and grissini with hummus, so this time I took on a homemade version of Wheat Thins to eat with apple slices and cheese cubes.

The recipe was pretty simple, but since it came from a King Arthur cookbook, I approached it with caution, and I’m glad I did. The dough was very dry and crumbly, similar to that for my buckwheat cookies or pecan snowballs. I added quite a bit of extra water, probably close to double what the recipe called for, and it was still difficult to roll out without just disintegrating into crumbs. Fortunately, I took the recommendation of Kitchen Stewardship and rolled my dough on parchment, which likely saved me a lot of frustration once the crackers were cut into squares. I pricked them with a fork and sprinkled them with pink Bolivian salt because I seem to have run out of kosher (eek, how did that happen?). They took a few more minutes in the oven than called for, possibly because I added extra moisture. As it turns out, I was incredibly lucky that the crackers baked up just right, because once they were done, I popped some crumb-crusted salmon fillets in the oven for dinner and the temperature control promptly freaked out and turned the top of the fish into charcoal.

I didn’t think the flavor of these crackers was quite spot-on for the store-bought sort. My whole wheat flour was probably not the freshest, so I imagine that had some bearing on the outcome, but I’d like to experiment with a blend of whole grain flours next time. A bit more butter might help the flavor and texture of the dough also. I’m thinking of trying cheese nips and animal crackers, assuming the oven cooperates… I don’t trust it as far as I can throw it.

“Wheat Thins” Style Crackers

1 ¼ C whole wheat flour
1 ½ T sugar or honey
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp paprika
4 T butter
1/4-1/2 C water
¼ tsp vanilla
salt for topping

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and paprika in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks and pulse it into the dry ingredients. (You could also cut the butter in by hand, using butter knives, fingers, or a pastry cutter.) Combine the water and vanilla, and add to the flour mixture, mixing until smooth. (Note: If you use honey, just mix it in with the water.)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat the size of your baking sheet on a work surface, and dump the dough onto it. Lightly flour your rolling pin, and roll out the dough directly on the paper or mat into a large rectangle at least 12 inches square and as thin as you can get it without tearing, at least 1/16 inch thick. Trim the dough to even the edges and use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut the piece into squares approximately 1 1/2 inches wide. Be gentle if you are using a silicone mat, so as not to cut through it.

Lift the parchment or mat and transfer the whole thing to a prepared baking sheet; you can leave the crackers crowded together, as they don’t expand while baking. Sprinkle the squares lightly with salt, if desired, and dock them with a fork.

Bake the crackers until crisp and browned, 5 to 10 minutes. If some of the thinner crackers on the edges brown too quickly, remove them and return the remaining crackers to the oven to finish baking. These crackers bake quickly, so watch them closely – even 30 seconds can turn them from golden brown to toast!

Source: King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook, via Kitchen Stewardship.

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