dsc04137from New York Times, November 8, 2008.

Ever since I tried this recipe, I have not bought a single package of crackers. I may never buy one again. The sheet of cracker produced by this recipe flatters just about every cheese I’ve eaten it with. It took a couple of attempts to adjust the directions, but I could tell right away that this is the sort of recipe you effortlessly memorize, because you make it several times a week. I make it for lunch — 5 mins to pull the dough together, 25-30 mins in the oven. It keeps well in a bread box or plastic bag, although however much I make it never lasts more than 24 hours.

The advantages of spelt further recommend this cracker: it contains more protein than wheat and I believe it contains fewer calories than other flours. The Internet informs me that, overall, it’s one of the healthiest grains. My co-op sells it in bulk, so I imagine most upscale and food co-operatives will carry it.

So, here’s the way it appeared in the Times:

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups white spite flour, plus more for flouring surface

Coarse sea salt, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, or kalunji seeds.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve the salt in 1/2 cup of water. Stir in the spelt flour until combined. Knead the dough a few turns until a ball forms.

2. Flour an overturned 12-by-17-inch cookie sheet and roll out the dough on top of it, using as much flour as needed to prevent sticking, until the dough cover the sheets from edge to edge. Using a spray bottle filled with water, spray the dough to give it a glossy finish. Prick the dough all over with a fork. If you choose, sprinkle with sea salt or seeds. For neat crackers, score the dough into grids.

3. Bake until the dough is crisp and golden and snaps apart, 15 to 25 mins. (Check after 10 minutes to make sure it does not overcook.) Break into pieces and serve. Makes 1 large cracker sheet.

Adapted from Eli Winograd at the Hungry Ghost in Northampton, Mass.

How I usually make it these days:

If I’m making it for myself alone, I halve the amounts with the exception of the salt. The Diamond Crystal kosher salt I use is half the salinity of regular table salt and most sea salts. So, I leave it at a quarter teaspoon.

I add to the dough 1 tsp olive oil for a full recipe and 1/2 tsp for a half recipe. The oil makes the dough easier to roll out.

You’ll definitely need extra flour, because the soft dough adheres to the rolling dowel. So, I generously sprinkle the flat cracker with flour as I roll it out on the cookie sheet.

Make sure to roll out the cracker thinly. It makes the difference between a great cracker and a jawbreaker.

I have yet to add any seeds, but that’s only because I don’t want fennel or other flavors with cheese. I also use coarse sea salt very sparingly on the top.

The cracker is never done in less than 25 minutes in my oven, but you’ll have to adjust to the heat of your own.

In the future…

I have considered adding finely minced rosemary to the cracker. I may experiment by switching to walnut oil to see if it enhances the nuttiness of the spelt flour.

Update, 1/21/2009: My pal Gary added parmesan cheese to the dough. I did the same tonight and loved the results. However, a caution. I noticed that the cheese made the cracker brown more quickly. Usually, it takes 30 mins in my oven to finish. This time, I could have pulled it from the oven at 20-25 mins. So, watch it. The cheese encourages it to burn.

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