Monday, September 24, 2012

homemade wheat thins

homemade wheat thins

So, the problem, if there could be one, with having a slight obsession with making homemade version of snack-aisle favorites — goldfish crackers, oreos, graham crackers, pop-tarts, ice-cream sandwiches and the like — is that people quite often think you’re crazy. And if you’re me, someone who already delights in things that most people find awful — dicing vegetables, fitting every dish in the dishwasher (triumphantly humming the Tetris music) and, apparently, dotting the eyes of cheddar goldfish with the pointy end of a meat thermometer — you probably don’t need any help convincing people that you’re nuts. Sadly, when people don’t think you’re crazy, they might be suspicious you have some sort of Sanctimommy/Down With Cheetos-type agenda, but I no more fuss in the kitchen to make others feel bad if they lack the time or inclination to than the woman walking down my street right now with flawless, flowing locks and $300 skinny jeans is there to make me feel bad that I am currently in possession of neither, sigh.

a blessedly simple cracker dough
thin, but not thin enough, wheat thins

Nevertheless, because of these two things, I tend to be overly cautious before sharing recipes like the one I am today for Wheat Thin-like crackers at home. Let’s put one thing out here before I tell you about them: Do we eat exclusively homemade foods and snacks 24/7? Bwah! Even 12/7? Maybe. On good days. But, the thing is, I really love projects like this because, the fact is, we all need a snack from time to time and while the packaged options are hardly universally evil, there’s a lot of things in there you’d never put in your food at home. It’s liberating to be able to make the foods you love in your own kitchen, and it’s a great idea to tuck away for a rainy day afternoon project when your kid is spinning off their axis again or, you know, when you get a little carried away in advance of your toddler’s birthday party.

they look thin, but they're too thick!

just right wheat thins

And these were especially delicious to make at home. As it turns out, wheat thin crackers that you buy in a box are little but thin wheat crackers (see what I did there? oof.) that you can make at home. The dough is a simple combination of butter, whole wheat flour and salt. The trickiest part is rolling them very, very thin. If you’re me, you’ll know this going in and will roll them gorgeously thin, then pat yourself on the back for getting it right the first time. I bet you know where this is going! On your second batch, you will understand that even thinner is the way to go. I briefly considered running the dough through a pasta machine, and definitely want to hear about it if you try this out at home. But fear not, a regular old rolling pin will do the trick.

cooling wheat thins

The result is what I’d call a 97 percent match to the original. Of course, I had to compare them to store-bought versions in my “test kitchen” and found them much less salty and much less… yellow. The ingredient list on the box informs me the the hue is from a coloring derived from tumeric, and hey, no harm if you want to throw a pinch in for a warmer color. You can also salt them more generously. I liked these when they came out of the oven but I have to say, the handful that survived the party that I’ve been nibbling on these week are even better. With age, the cracker tastes almost like a brown butter wheat thin. They taste rich, luxurious even, which are hardly words I’d otherwise associate with crackers but never want to disassociate them again.

homemade wheat thins

One year ago: Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar and Apple and Honey Challah
Two years ago: Skirt Steak Salad with Blue Cheese and Monkey Cake
Three years ago: Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies (This is the recipe from my article in October’s Martha Stewart Living, if you were interested.) Grilled Lamb Kebabs + Tzatziki
Four years ago: Braised Romano Beans, Eggs in Tomato Sauce, Spinach Quiche and Bread Without A Timetable
Five years ago: Tortilla de Patatas and Grandmothers of Sils’ Apple and Yogurt Cake and Chocolate Babka
Six years ago: Summer Squash Soup, Giardinera and Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

Homemade Wheat Thin Crackers
Adapted, just barely, from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

I recommend traditional whole wheat flour for an accurate color but white whole wheat flour for a more delicate texture. I used the regular stuff. The original recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract to be added along with the water, but I don’t associate the vanilla flavor with wheat thins at all (nor did I spot it on the ingredient list). Nevertheless, feel free to add this and/or any other seasonings that you’d like (onion or garlic powder, thyme or rosemary, black pepper, etc.)

Yield: About 3 dozen. I highly suggest doubling this recipe.

1 1/4 cups (155 grams) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) table salt, plus additional for topping
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine, cut into small bits

In a food processor: Combine the flour, sugar, salt, paprika and butter in a food processor, pulsing the mixture until the butter is evenly disbursed in the crumbs. Drizzle in 1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water with the machine running; run it until the mixture begins to form a ball.

By hand: Combine the flour, sugar, salt, paprika and butter in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work the butter into the mixture until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water, stir with spoon until combined. Knead once or twice on counter.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Either lightly grease baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

Roll your dough out, half at a time, to a large, very, very thin rectangle-ish shape on a well-floured counter. Did I mention you should roll them thin? Thinner than you even think necessary is best. Frequently check to make sure your dough isn’t sticking; if it is, gently scrape a spatula underneath to lift it, then flour the counter again. Using a knife or pastry wheel, cut dough into about 1 1/2-inch squares. Dock crackers all over with a toothpick or pointy end of a thermometer. (Technically speaking, I noted a 9-dot docking pattern, like the 9 sides of a pair of dice, on my store-bought Wheat Thins. I highly recommend you do not drive yourself bonkers trying to emulate this.)

Transfer crackers to baking sheets, spacing them only a little as they really don’t spread. Sprinkle with additional table salt if you’d like to approximate the salty exteriors of the store-bought crackers. Bake crackers until crisp and bronzed, about 5 to 7 minutes but please keep a close watch on the first batch as thinner crackers (high-five!) will bake faster and thicker ones will take longer.

Cool in baking pans on racks. Crackers will keep in an airtight container officially for a week but ours are in fact two weeks old and still perfect. You can also freeze them in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper for a couple months.


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