Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fire Crackers

If you know just one thing about my cooking style, it's probably that I'm intent on cooking from scratch. I make my own bread and yogurt. I often make my own pasta and flatbreads and tortillas. I've made sauerkraut. I've made pickle relish. I've made cheese and creme fraiche. I've made bacon and corned beef. I've made butter. I've made mustard and barbecue sauce. If it can be made at home, I want to try it at least once.

But there are some things I don't mind buying. While I've made barbecue sauce, I'm fine with buying ketchup. We use so little of it that we need the industrial preservatives so it can last long enough for us to use it all. While I can make mustard any time I want it, there are certain brands that I like enough to buy.

And sometimes I find a product that is so good for what it is that I see no sense in trying to make it. Hot Heads Pepperspread is a recent discovery. It's made from jalepenos, but there's something about the combination of spices and tartness and spiciness that elevates it to something more than just jalepenos. And it's not your typical salsa or pickled jalepeno. As the name suggests, this stuff is a spread, close to the consistency of a stone-ground mustard.

As a substitute, you could cook some jalepenos, peel them, remove most of the seeds, and blend them up, but it wouldn't be exactly the same. The jar lists vinegar and spices as ingredients, but I have no clue what's really in there. All I know is that this stuff is oddly addicting.

I made salsa for a cooking demo that used just a hint of Pepperspread and people were coming back for more...amazed at how few ingredients were in the salsa. The true pepperheads were spooning the stuff straight from the jar. I've gone through more than a few jars of the stuff, and I keep finding new ways to use it.

I've made breads using the Pepperspread, but my latest experiment was crackers. Just a hint of the Pepperspread (did I mention that a little goes a long way) gives just enough heat to the crackers that you feel it creeping up on you, but that the spice averse would probably be fine as well. Eat one cracker, and it's not spicy, but keep on eating, and you can feel the heat build.

If you want a spicier cracker, you could increase the amount of Pepperspread and decrease the water.

These would be a great appetizer with a little cream cheese, but I've been eating them plain.

This recipe makes enough to fill a baking sheet with crackers, but if you need more, you can double or triple the recipe.

Fire Crackers

1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup bread flour
1 teaspoon Hotheads Pepperspread
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil.

Mix the water, yeast, sugar, flour, and pepperspread in a bowl. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

Add the salt and olive oil, and mix to combine as well as you can in the bowl. The gluten should be developing nicely, so it won't be as cooperative as it was during the initial mixing.

Flour your work surface and turn the dough out. If you wear contact lenses or have sensitive skin, consider wearing disposable food-safe gloves. (Don't ask me how I know this.) Knead briefly, form the dough into a ball, and return it to the bowl. The bowl will probably have some residual oil, but drizzle a little more over the dough to coat it. Cover the bowl and let it rest for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Flour your work surface again, and knead the dough to work out all the air bubbles, then roll the dough out to approximately 12x15 inches. It should be about the thickness of a dime. The edges will probably be thicker, so judge the thickness a little farther from the edge. Try to keep the dough rectangular, but don't stress about it being uneven.

While the crackers will rise during baking, you want to keep them from becoming little puffy hollow pillows. To keep them from puffing, use a dough docker or a fork to poke holes and/or dimple the dough. I have a rolling pin that I use for this sort of thing, but a fork works fine. If some of the crackers puff, it's not a big deal.

You can trim the dough to make it square, but I leave it uneven. Those misshapen pieces make a nice snack for the cook.

Using a pizza wheel, pastry cutter, or knife, cut the dough into appropriate cracker shapes. I made 1-inch square crackers, but you can make random shapes or rhomboids. If you want to get fancy, you can use cookie cutters, but I went with basic squares.

Move the crackers to your parchment-lined sheet. You don't need to break them apart completely; it's fine if groups of them remain stuck together, and they're easier to handle in sections rather than individually. Once they're baked, they'll break apart cleanly at the score marks.

Bake for 25-45 minutes, until the crackers are very lightly browned and dried all the way through.

The crackers will probably bake unevenly, with those at the edges of the baking sheet getting brown faster. You can move them around to get them to bake evenly, or take out the browned ones as they're done baking. The fully-baked crackers will snap apart crisply, while the yet-unfinished ones will bend rather than snap. Also, the fully-cooked ones will feel lighter, since all the water will have cooked out.

The more often you open the oven to rearrange the crackers, the longer the baking will take, but once they start browning, they can overbrown quickly. So watch them carefully.

Cool them completely on a rack before you store them. Or just put them in a bowl and leave them out for snacking.

These were the crackers that resulted in the optical illusion of a bear. So it was a cool illusion on a hot cracker. hehe.

This also appeared on Serious Eats and has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

1 comment:

Gina said...

It is fun to find someone else who does crazy things like make crackers from scratch!

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