If you’re looking to move beyond bread with your sourdough starter, or maybe having trouble getting your bread to rise, don’t worry; sourdough starter is much more versatile than just for baking bread.
DIY Sourdough: The Beginner’s Guide to Crafting Starters, Breads Snacks, and More by John & Jessica Moody offers a variety of recipes for nourishing and delicious whole grain sourdough recipes that cover breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Today we’re sharing a recipe for making crackers. They don't need to rise, and cost a fraction to make at home compared to store-bought crackers.
Excerpt from the Book
Another easy lunch addition is crackers, though we often eat these as snacks or for dinner. They are amazingly expensive — basic organic crackers run about $8 per pound, while specialty ones are double that! Also, crackers are an excellent beginning recipe when your starter is young and so are you when it comes to sourdough!
Since they require no rise and don’t suffer from many other complications of more complex recipes, your chances of success are significantly higher.
Successful crackers require two skills: a way to easily roll them and then a method to score them so you don’t end up with one big cracker.
Two things make rolling crackers easy: a pastry roller and a pan with no edges (such as a pizza stone). We use a large Pampered Chef rectangular baking stone, but almost any edgeless pan will do. We tried recipes many years ago that had you roll the crackers and then transfer them onto the pan… the results were disastrous. I think we went five years before we were willing to try again!
Why on Earth they didn’t just do the simple thing and roll out the crackers right on the baking sheet is beyond us, but at least you will know better and not need years of therapy to recover from your cracker catastrophe. If you don’t have a baking sheet without edges, you can also roll them out on parchment. This requires that you carefully transfer the parchment to the baking sheet after rolling and scoring, which isn’t nearly as time consuming or difficult as cutting and transferring individual crackers.
One of the main difficulties with crackers is how to get them to crack apart evenly. It is a good deal easier than you realize once you know the secret. First, you should score the rolled out dough right before the crackers go into the oven. Second, you can use a pizza cutter to make this much easier. If you don’t have one, any knife does fine; it is just harder to get straight, long cuts. A cutter also lets you customize cracker size, or even get a little artistic — our kids always get a kick out of when Jessica uses a ravioli or similar cutter to create decorative patterns along the edges.
By scoring the crackers before cooking, they naturally break apart or become very weak along the lines as they bake. Once cooled, they easily separate.
Now for the recipe! This is adapted from one we first saw many years ago on The Kitchen Stewardship website.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
Yield: two large trays of thin crackers or two medium-sized trays of thicker crackers.
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- ¼ cup palm shortening or lard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cup spelt flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour), divided
- In a bowl, mix thoroughly starter and palm shortening or lard to make a somewhat watery dough. Combine ¼ cup whole wheat or spelt flour and ½ teaspoon salt and mix into the dough.
- Add enough flour to make the dough stiff — for whole wheat, it takes about ¾ cup; for spelt, a hair less than 1 cup. Since you will be rolling the dough out thinly, it is very important that it is firm enough to work. Allow to sit at room temperature for 7 to 12 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Take about half of the dough and roll it out on your baking pan or parchment, to a thin, uniform thickness, depending on your preference. It is very important that the entire tray be about the same thickness, or some will burn and others may end up undercooked. Add more dough as necessary to fill the baking sheet. This recipe usually fills one large baking sheet with some left over. We roll this out onto a second baking sheet, taking care to keep the thickness uniform, especially on the edges. If the crackers along the edges are too thin, they will quickly burn.
- Once rolled, the crackers are ready for scoring. Again, the size is up to you. Uniformity does not matter when scoring, so feel free to be creative and do as you please! Sprinkle the crackers with salt if desired.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crackers are lightly browned. Note that very thin crackers can go from almost done to burnt very quickly! Remove from the oven. You can cool them on the pan, but keep in mind that they may continue cooking if the pan holds heat well (like stoneware does); watch to make sure they don’t get too done. If you are using stoneware or similar cookware, the crackers will crisp up a bit more during this time. You can also remove them immediately from the pan to cool.
- Transfer to a bowl or dish and enjoy.
Beyond Basic Crackers
Note that the crackers don’t have much flavor of their own, especially if using standard wheat flour. Spelt, kamut, and einkorn all give far more flavor. Also, this recipe is a great base for all sorts of additions— tomato, basil, rosemary, grated cheese — the sky is the limit for where you go from here!
A friend of ours used to sell frozen sourdough cracker dough, which many people loved to purchase from her. You can freeze the dough for this recipe, and for a number of others. This can let you make a double or triple batch, and then save some dough for later when you are ready to bake more, instead of starting from scratch, like when you get surprise visitors or just need a meal option that is slightly faster to prepare.
All you need to do is, in the last steps, instead of adding the final ingredients like baking soda and salt, you take the dough, place it in an appropriate container, and pop it into the freezer. Before using, it is best to thaw the dough in the fridge, rather than at room temperature.