Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Super-thin bread crisps

These lighter-than-air crispy crackers make their way to my holiday table quite often. They aren't always the same - sometimes I change out the flour, or I add seeds. This time, the interesting ingredient was cooked grits. Or polenta, if you prefer.

You can use these crisps for appetizers, to accompany a cheese or dip. Or put them in the bread basket to add some crispness to the dinner table. They're light and airy, and people will be amazed that you made your own crackers, particularly crackers that are this amazingly thin.

You can make these a day or two ahead, if you like. They're a bit fragile, but if they break, it's no problem. Sometimes I leave just one or two of them whole for presentation, and break the rest into smaller pieces for serving.

These need to be rolled very, very thin to get the proper effect. But that's not the hard part. The hard part is that they cook very fast, and it's a fine line between done and burned. You don't have time to check your email when one is in the oven.

The cooked grits in this version added a slightly corny flavor to the crisps, but it's not like eating a corn chip - the flavor is subtle enough that it won't interfere with whatever you're serving with these chips, but it adds a bit of complexity to what it otherwise a very plain cracker. It also adds an interesting visual element.

Ethereal Crisps

1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 cup cooked grits, cooled slightly
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons warm water (more as needed)

Put the flours, grits, and salt into your food processor and pulse several times to distribute the ingredients. With the processor running, add the water through the feed tube, slowly, until the mixture comes together in a ball. You might need more or less water, depending on how wet your grits were. Don't add the water too quickly, or you could add too much and end up with a sticky dough that requires a lot more flour to compensate.

Continue processing until the dough is relatively smooth and elastic. It will be bumpy from the grits, but the dough itself should be smooth and stretchy.

Set the dough aside while your oven preheats to 550 degrees. It's best to make these on a pizza stone, but if you don't have one, a baking sheet preheated in the oven will work.

When the oven has heated, divide the dough into 12 pieces. Keep them all covered except the one you're working on. Flour your work surface and roll the first ball until it is very thin and shaped like Minnesota. Okay, really you're shooting for something vaguely round, but the shape is less important than the thinness. It doesn't matter if these are round, square, or anything in between, but they should be about 8 inches in diameter, and very, very thin.

Brush off any excess flour and carefully transfer the first piece to your hot baking stone. Set a timer for one minute. Flip the cracker over after the first minute. It should be somewhat stiff but still pale.

Set the timer for another minute and check the cracker. It should be almost crisp enough, and possibly starting to color. Set the timer for another minute and check the cracker at intervals.

Bright spots are the grits in the dough.
It's nice if your oven window is clean enough to see through so you don't have to open the door. You're looking for a crisp cracker with some brown spots, but not burned. Once it starts browning, it goes fast, so check the time and use that to time the rest of your crackers.

You might find that subsequent crackers cook a little faster as the stone continues to heat up. My first crackers took nearly three minutes, but the final ones were done in 2 1/2 minutes.

If you're fast enough, you should be able to roll the next cracker as the previous one bakes. As they're done, let them cool on a rack before you begin stacking them. There's still a little moisture in them, and if you stack or package them to soon, there's a risk they'll lose their crispness.


elpi said...

flaky goodness. .In love with it:0

Katy said...

Could you cook these on the stovetop, maybe on a flat griddle or cast-iron pan? They might be easier to watch and time that way.

Donna Currie said...

Katy, you could cook them on the stovetop, but the result will be different since you're not getting heat from both sides. Not bad, but just not the same.

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