Thursday, November 4, 2010

Polly Wants a (Homemade) Cracker

Favorites of parrots, toddlers, and snack aficionados everywhere, The Cracker is a versatile and delicious food eaten on its own or as an accompaniment to cheeses of all kinds. The popularity of The Cracker means that an entire aisle is devoted to them in the grocery store, but their contents can often be dubious. Ingredients too long to comfortably pronounce, like sorbitan monostearate or polysorbate 60 combined with ingredients we know are bad for us like partially hydrogenated soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup and saturated fat abound in store-bought crackers. To avoid them, make your own!

Basic Bread Cracker Recipe

Chill the bread for easier cutting. Then trim the crust off closely. Cut into 1⁄2 – inch slices for a zwieback, 1⁄8–1⁄4 inch thick for a melba. Make slices about 11⁄2 inch wide and as long as you want. Spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for about 20 minutes, or until dry and crisp clear through. Then store in a dry place, such as a tightly covered glass jar, or in a plastic bag in your freezer. Serve as needed. Good to keep on hand for the children.


If you’re not familiar with zwieback, buy a package at the store just to give you a notion of where you’re trying to get to. Your homemade zwieback will taste and look very much like the store product. It’s a great cracker for toddlers.

Scald 1⁄2 c. milk; then cool. When lukewarm, add 2 T. yeast and dissolve. Add 1⁄4 c. sugar or 1⁄4 c. honey, 1⁄2 t. salt, 3 eggs, and enough flour to make a workable dough. Make the dough more tender than for regular bread (use less flour). Let rise in bowl until light. Shape into oblong rolls about 2 inches in diameter and 4 inches long. Space about 2 inches apart in a buttered pan in parallel rows. Let rise again. Rolls will more than double. Bake 20 minutes at 400˚F. Remove from oven when agreeably browned. Let cool. Then chill in refrigerator. When cold, cut carefully into crosswise slices 1⁄2 inch thick — like store-bought bread slices. Brown evenly in the oven at 400˚F about 10 minutes. They need to be dry all the way through.

Melba Toast

Slice day-old bread very thin and toast until it is very crisp. The bread should be fine-grained to start with so it will cut into thin, even slices. Unleavened bread works well. Any older bread that is thoroughly chilled will cut thinner than fresh, warm bread. Ideally, melba toast is a delicate brown all over and is totally dry. Cut the slices 1⁄8–1⁄4 inch thick. Lay them in a pan side by side and bake in the oven at 250–325˚F for 15 to 18 minutes.

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