There is much to be said for a good single-subject cookbook. As much as I value my collection of general cookbooks, I probably reach for the more specific tomes more than any other, because I know they will have both the recipes and inspiration I’m looking for, and more importantly, the detailed techniques I’m going to need for success. Heck, I still sometimes thumb through my shelves ruefully looking for a great, thin little volume of vegetarian North Indian curries that I’m pretty sure I lost in college.
Ivy Manning’s latest, Crackers & Dips: More than 50 Handmade Snacks is exactly that sort of book. She’s got classic crackers, global crackers, healthy crackers, quick crackers and sweet crackers, not to mention a terrific selection of dips and spreads to eat them with. But more importantly, she sets you up to win with detailed tips on how to mix the doughs, which ones can be made ahead, and how to roll them out to the perfect thickness. (Spoiler: a hand-cranked pasta maker is an awesome choice for many crackers.)
A disclaimer: Ivy is a friend – we’ve been internet pals since the early days of Herbivoracious, and we had lunch in Portland at Pok Pok one time. From which I can tell you: Ivy knows food. She’s got a great palate and she’s a conscientious recipe author, so I have no doubt that each of these crackers is spot-on.
I made her Ritzy Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers because I wanted my wife, who has a nut allergy, to finally taste what a peanut butter sandwich cracker is like – and I figured I could sub in sunflower butter, which worked perfectly. They were easy to make and came out delicious. Here’s the recipe.
Ritzy Peanut Butter (or Sunflower Butter) Sandwich Crackers
Makes 25 sandwiches (50 crackers)
These are just like the packaged peanut butter crackers Mom packed in your lunch, but without all the chemicals and trans fats—plus they taste much, much better. The secret to these buttery crackers is barley malt syrup, a sweet, thick syrup made from sprouted barley that is used by bakers and brewers when a light, malty flavor is desired.
You can, of course, forgo the peanut butter filling and enjoy these buttery crackers solo or with a savory spread like Bacon and Caramelized Onion Jam [Herbivoracious: I'll have to think about the vegetarian version of that!]. They’re also smashing served alongside a big bowl of chili.
For the crackers
- 4 tbsp/55 g chilled unsalted butter
- 2 cups/255 g unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp sugar 1 tsp fine sea salt 2 tsp barley malt syrup or dark corn syrup 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup/120 ml water 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water 1 tsp kosher salt
For the peanut butter filling
- 3/4 cup/190 g creamy peanut butter [Herbivoracious: or unsweetened sunflower seed butter, for the peanut allergic]
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup/80 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
To make the crackers: Cut the butter into 1⁄4-in/6-mm chunks and place in the freezer while combining the dry ingredients. In a food processor or large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and sea salt and pulse or whisk to combine. Add the butter and pulse or cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or your fingers until the butter is in tiny pieces and the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal, about 15 one-second pulses.
In a small bowl, whisk together the barley malt syrup, vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup/120 ml of the water, stirring to dissolve the malt extract. Gradually add the water mixture to the food processor or bowl, pulsing or mixing with a wooden spoon to combine. Gather up the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, cover in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1hour and up to 2days.
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/ gas 6. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is 1⁄16 in/2 mm thick, picking up the dough occasionally and rotating it to make sure it’s not sticking to the work surface. Using a round scalloped cookie cutter, cut the dough into 21/2-in/6-cm rounds; reserve the scraps.
Fill one baking sheet with crackers, spacing them about 1/2 in/12 mm apart. Brush the crackers lightly with the beaten egg and then prick the crackersseveral times with a fork (a spoke pattern adds visual appeal). Sprinkle the crackers sparingly with some of the kosher salt
and bake for 4 minutes; rotate the pan from back to front. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F/190°C/gas 5 and con- tinue to bake until the crackers are light golden brown and firm to the touch, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.
Return the oven temperature to 400°F/200°C/gas 6 and repeat the process with the remaining dough and scraps, baking the crackers one baking sheet at
To make the filling: Place the peanut butter, butter, and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl or the food processor used to make the crackers. Beat with a handheld mixer or process until the mixture is fluffy. Chill the filling for 30 minutes.
Spread the bottom side of half of the crackers with 11/2 tsp of the peanut butter filling. Top each of the peanut butter crackers with another cracker, salt-side up, to create a sand- wich. Store in an airtight con- tainer for up to 4 days.