The past week has seen a lot of spring related posts and articles popping into my inbox: recipes flaunting tender young vegetables, some pastel-tastic decorating ideas. Even a white (!) tarmac-scraping trouser suit stared back at my disbelieving face. But I really shook my fake fur hat-wearing head at this one, allegedly taken in Stockholm – a city not really known for its floaty miniskirt-friendly weather. Yes, I am wearing a hat indoors.
I think you will have surmised by now that it is snowing here in Edinburgh. March ruddy 19th and we have horizontal snow and sleet.
It has been snowing off and on since weekend before last. It all kicked off as my poor Miss R was attempting to get her PADI certificate while a blizzard raged above. Muggins here, along with Mr A, stood with cups of takeway tea as the snow drove straight into our faces. The occasional flash of retina-searing sun (or so it seemed in contrast) was not enough to mitigate against mild hypothermia. Despite dry suits the youngest of the would-be divers – our daughter included – were just too cold, and full of the cold, to complete the final required task. So, this weekend – with more snow predicted – the girls will trudge back up north to try and complete their training. As they are certifying in true Arctic conditions, their summer marine biology research trip to Honduras will be as easy as falling off a log. Or rather, boat.
All of this has nothing to do with today’s recipe. I just needed to vent. As a transplanted Floridian I just don’t do cold, or this kind of horrid, sloppy, cement-sky cold. Enough already with the precipitation.
While the unremitting wintery deluge has sent many of us straight to Kayak, fantasising about catching the next flight to the Bahamas, this weather also sends some of us to the kitchen. I imagine that across the frozen north and east many a pot of soup and tray of scones is being made right this very minute. Other than star jumps in the living room, baking and pot stirring are great and productive ways to keep warm. People smile when you offer them a steaming bowl of something nice, and you get the benefit of standing over a simmering pan, or a sneakily-opened oven door. It’s a win-win situation. And these crackers are easy enough to make while a soup is on the go.
I was originally inspired to make this type of cracker when on a visit back home to Tampa, Florida. My sister took me into a chi-chi wine shop, and as we were about to leave – empty-handed as neither of us fancied a second mortgage – I saw a pretty display of crisp flatbreads. They were artfully wrapped in bundles of eight. Perfect for pre-dinner nibbles with a glass of hideously expensive wine or, in our case, a decent bottle of plonk from Red Neck Wines. I nearly screeched when I saw the hand-written, raffia-tied price tag – $8. Eight dollars for eight pieces of baked dough. I’m sure they tasted fab, but really, eight bucks?
When I got home to my trusty metric scales I set about experimenting. In a short amount of time I hit on a version that wouldn’t have looked out of place in that fancy shop. Or at least once it got its rustic wrapping. I really should have bought a pack then to have something to compare this to, but I think I probably would still have stuck to this recipe. It is easy, reliable and ripe for variation. You could sub the wee seeds for bigger, hunky ones like sunflower and pumpkin, pressing them on top rather than mixing into the dough. Or you could use chopped fresh herbs. Maybe take it another direction entirely by baking slightly thicker tongues of dough until not quite crisp and topping with roasted vegetables, or even spiced minced lamb. I have paid a pretty penny for just such a dish. Yes, I know one is paying for the ambience, convenience, packaging, service, not having to wash up. But if you fancy super-fresh, super-crisp, super-cheap flatbread crackers?… And as an added bonus the dough rolling is an amazing way to keep warm
I am entering this into Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours’ Credit Crunch Munch, which seems especially appropriate given the sound these make. And of course, Made With Love Mondays over at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ With Luv, where is all homemade (have a look at Mark’s piece about Google Reader).
What’s your weather up to? Are you already up to your elbows in young asparagus and pea shoots?
PS. I have changed my theme without checking how it fits with what I already have. My index is a bit of a disaster. I shall rectify for the next post!
(Adapted from my recipe for Olive Oil and Lemon-Rosemary Flatbreads)
Leave those pricey artisan flatbread crackers on the grocery shelf with this easy peasy recipe. All you need are some store cupboard ingredients, a rolling pin and an oven. And asbestos fingers, cos you’ll want to snatch them straight off the baking tray.
Flaky salt, such as Maldon, Murray River pink salt, Halen Mon
Pop the flour into a large bowl along with the baking powder and salt and give it a good going over with a large whisk. You can sift this of course but even refined spelt flour has ‘bits’ in it that stay in a sieve. A large balloon whisk is my weapon of choice when sifting chunky flour.
Roll the cylinder into a sausage shape about a foot long and mark out notches at about 4 inch intervals. Cut off one notch and roll out in a rectangle as thinly as possible on a flour-dusted surface or directly onto a sheet of baking paper, flouring the rolling pin as necessary. If it seems a bit resistant to rolling at any point, just leave it to rest for a few minutes. This allows the gluten to relax and become more elastic.
Use a knife and clean ruler, or rim of a baking tray, to neaten the rectangle and then cut the rectangle into strips, then into smaller rectangles. To keep it simple you could just make smaller notches and snip off and roll each into a longue/tongue shape (see image below). You could make it fancier by cutting with a crimp-edged cutter, or use floured cookie cutters to make shapes or rounds.
Carefully lift and place each rolled piece onto a parchment paper-lined large baking tray (unless you have rolled the dough directly onto the paper), piercing each lightly and evenly at regular intervals with a fork. Brush the entire surface with more olive oil (don’t be stingy), scatter over with flaky salt, and bake in a hot (220C/425F) oven for between 8 and 10 minute. Watch carefully. You may get a few singed ends but that’s part of the charm of these (!). Remove carefully and lay on a baking rack to cool and crisp up further. Carry on with the remaining dough. If you have a few baking trays just do all of the rolling and cutting in a one-er.
These keep really well in a airtight container. But as with most baked goods, this theory is rarely put to the test. Perfect with Super-smooth Hummus, Lebanese-style Broad Bean Hummus and Pea and Coriander Dip. See the Index for more partners.
Variation: Try using Indian spicing – a good pinch of garam masala or mild curry powder, plus kalonji/nigella seeds, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.