Sunday 17 February 2013

Crackers (and bread)

I have a problem with crackers: most are far too thick. Who wants a face-full of oaty doorstep or wheaty brick? I also don't want an explosion of saliva sapping shards as I bite into yet another golden briquette. So what do I want? I want a sublime 'cheese delivery system', for this is what crackers are. I want thin, fine but damn tasty. So I made my own and discovered a neat trick along the way.

Dove Farm Rye Flour and Dove Farm Malthouse Flour. (That's brioche proving in the background).
You'll notice how the iPhone cunningly focuses on the stuff in the background and not the actual subject, bringing the attractive roll of kitchen towel into perfect relief. It's probably all part of Apple's Think Different policy.

Stupid Thin Rye Crackers.

In a food processor, add 60g softened butter to 250g rye flour and a big pinch of salt. Breadcrumb this. Then add enough very cold water to bring the mix together to a lump of dough.

Roll this flat and wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge (or somewhere else that's chilled) for about an hour.

Roll out into a long oblong and then run this through a PASTA MACHINE. Yes, that's the trick to these. The dough is surprisingly well behaved. I took mine to the penultimate stop on the rollers (if you make pasta, that will make sense). This results in a wonderfully thin and even length of dough. Cut this ultra thin dough into strips... or not. I also made some wonderful, extra large crackers. You can also, just scrunch the dough like paper and make... um... crunchy scrunchies. A well organised blogger would surely have photographed these more interesting shapes. Yeah.

These were the last few of the run, so are a bit ragged.
The earlier ones looked better (honest).
Also: the crackers don't move when photographed. That was me.

Very thin!

These should be baked at the top of the over for about 8-12 minutes depending on how soft/baked you want them.

Sunflower Seed Malted Crackers

In a bowl, mix 250g of Malted, multi-grain flour with 90ml of oil and at least 70ml of water, salt to taste. You want a fairly sloppy, loose dough. Place in cling film and chill overnight until stiff enough to roll out.
Roll between layers of baking parchment to about 3mm thick. Cut out into desired shapes and sprinkle with sunflower seeds (or... poppy seeds... walnut pieces... toenail clippings - they'll never know) and bake for 15 mins @180°C until just golden brown. They will crisp up when cool.


I use Paul Hollywood's recipe. BUT, I only use one sachet of yeast per half kilo of flour, not his two. I like this recipe because he adds a lot of water. Be wary of drier doughs, you just won't get the lovely airy structure that probably drove you to make your own focaccia in the first place. Just give the dough plenty of time on the second rise. There is NOTHING finer to eat than slices of char-grilled focaccia. I don't dress mine with herbs, just oil and salt.

Just out of the oven and not yet 'seasoned' with lashings of olive oil and Maldon.

Our first fully veggie. Plants galore.

The very fabulous Roisin and Nick booked a party of eight (including the good people from @damagedgoodsrec and soon-to-be-superstar-writer @VickieDonoghue) but this time 'vegetarian' meant exactly that; so no fish. They also wanted an extra cheese course after dessert. I was happy to oblige. I love cheese, especially when it's a selection of Britain's finest from Neal's Yard. The UK now makes more types of artisan cheese than France. It is often fantastically expensive though; sometimes in excess of £45 a kilo.
I think veggies often get a bad deal in restaurants; so often an afterthought. The 'option' is invariably something unmentionable baked with cheese with the consistency of a dog-slobbered-slipper. I didn't want to do that. My starters are frequently vegetarian so no problem there. I wanted something unusual but not outlandish for the main course. I decided on a fennel and white onion tarte tatin. This was (another) Roux recipe (see below). I served the tart with something bitter: honey roast chicory and something very savoury: Jerusalem artichoke purée (not from Jerusalem and not an artichoke - great name).
The cheese was served with English quince jam, grapes, apples and a selection of my crackers and bread. See the post 'Crackers' for details and recipes.

Fennel and White Onion Tarte Tatin (serves 8)

Slice four onions thickly. Cut four fennel into four. Place in a roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Roast for around 25 mins @ 180°C until just tender and beginning to brown.
In a large frying pan heat 120g of caster sugar with around 100ml of water, adding more water if things get too sticky later. Over a low heat, bring the mix to a caramel. Remove from the heat.
Place the fennel slice in a pattern and in-fill with the soft onion. Over the veg sprinkle some thyme leaves, salt, pepper and a few teaspoons of freshly crushed coriander seeds (don't use powder). Over all this: a sparse grating of parmesan. I know - cheese and caramel, who'd have thunk it.
Cut a round of all butter puff pastry that's slightly larger than the pan. Place this over the veg, carefully pushing down the sides to seal in the goodness. A quick egg wash and then a few fork pricks to allow the steam to escape. Bake for about 30 mins @ 200°C so the pastry is golden and risen.
On a board or a large plate invert the tart. It's quite a pretty thing, so long as you like brown.

Did I take a picture? No. Bugger! Sigh.