So GoodOct/Nov 2012 Issue

Crazy for Gluten-Free Crackers

As a self-professed “snack-tooth” (as opposed to a sweet tooth) with a gluten intolerance, I find that typical wheat-filled appetizer spreads are hard to stomach. That’s why I go to holiday gatherings armed with a secret weapon—homemade gluten-free crackers. I bring two trays of crackers. One is for the hors d’ouevre table so I can enjoy the festivities without worrying about my gut. The second, wrapped and tied with a bow, is a homespun gift for my hosts.

Folks always marvel at my DIY baking acumen but I tell them the truth: Crackers are as easy to make as a batch of cookies! They’re also a great cost-cutting item during this budget-crunched season. The average box of gluten-free gourmet crackers costs about $6, while homemade crackers cost much less.

And then there’s the flavor factor. Just as packaged cookies don’t hold a candle to homemade treats, fresh-baked crackers taste immeasurably better than store-bought ones.

These easy recipes use a variety of flavorful, nutrient-rich alternative flours, giving the crackers a depth of taste and texture that plain, old soda crackers just can’t match. But be prepared. Even wheat eaters will devour them. So make them in large batches (recipes can be doubled)—and be sure to squirrel away some for yourself.

 


 

Amaranth Crackers with Cheddar and Pepitas

MAKES 35 CRACKERS

Spicy and a little sweet, these zesty crackers have an addictive Southwestern flavor that marries deliciously with guacamole, tomatillo salsa, and mild, creamy dips. The cheese or vegan cheese sprinkled on top of the crackers is optional.

1 cup amaranth flour
½ cup cornstarch + 2 teaspoons for rolling
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup water, more as needed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
½ cup grated, tightly packed cheddar cheese or dairy-free alternative, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the amaranth flour, ½ cup cornstarch, baking powder, sugar, chili powder, cumin, sea salt and garlic powder.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms into crumbly dough. Knead and squeeze the dough in the bowl until it comes together into a smooth ball, about 10 strokes. If the dough seems a bit dry, add a sprinkle of water to bring it together.

4. Dust a piece of parchment paper with 1 teaspoon of remaining cornstarch. Place the dough on the paper and pat it into a rectangle measuring 4x6 inches. Dust the dough with the remaining 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap and roll it out until it is about 1/16-inch thick.

5. Remove the plastic wrap on top. Trim the edges and cut the dough into rectangles measuring 2½x1½ inches. Save and reroll the scraps. Using a bench scraper or spatula, transfer the crackers to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them closely together.

6. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and cheese over the crackers, pressing firmly to adhere the seeds and cheese to the dough.

7. Place crackers in preheated oven and bake for 14 to 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets once from top to bottom and from front to back while cooking, until the crackers are browned at the edges and crisp to the touch (under-cooked crackers will be quite pliable when you try to bend one).

8. Cool the crackers on a rack and store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Each cracker contains 46 calories, 2g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 2mg cholesterol, 97mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 1g protein.

Recipe adapted from Crackers and Dips (Chronicle Books) by Ivy Manning, for release Spring 2013.

 


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Gluten-Free Senbei-Japanese Rice Crackers with Furikake

Makes 38 crackers

These crackers are a snap to make in a food processor and are pressed between sheets of plastic, so you don’t even need a rolling pin! The dough is flavored with furikake, a Japanese condiment made from sesame seeds and nori seaweed, available at Asian markets. Be sure to check labels; some furikake is not gluten-free.

1½ teaspoons gluten-free tamari
1½ teaspoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
¾ cup sweet rice flour
⅓ cup cooked white rice, cooled
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup water, more as needed
2 tablespoons furikake

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

2. Combine the tamari and mirin in a small bowl and set aside.

3. In a food processor, combine the rice flour, cooked rice, sea salt and oil. Pulse until finely ground.

4. With the machine running, slowly add the water and process until the mixture is crumbly, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the furikake and knead to combine, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to make a dough that clumps easily when squeezed. (The dough can be made ahead up to this point. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.)

6. Split a small plastic sandwich bag down the side seams, keeping it connected at the bottom seam. Place a heaping teaspoonful of dough between the sheets of the plastic bag and press with the bottom of a flat-bottomed dish or juice glass or in a tortilla press into a 2½-inch disk; the dough will be very thin. Carefully peel the dough round away from the plastic and place it on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

7. Bake in preheated oven until crackers are dry around the edges, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the crackers with your fingers and the help of a spatula and continue to cook until the crackers are dry and starting to brown around the edges on the second side, 4 to 5 minutes. Maintain the oven temperature.

8. Brush the tops of the crackers with the mirin-soy mixture. Return to the oven and bake until the crackers are lightly browned but not burned, 2 to 3 minutes. Watch carefully; the sugar in the mirin will burn if baked too long.

9. Allow the crackers to cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack. They will crisp up considerably as they cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Each cracker contains 19 calories, 1g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 1mg cholesterol, 38mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g protein.

Recipe from Crackers and Dips (Chronicle Books) by Ivy Manning, for release Spring 2013.

 


 

Seeded Quinoa & Millet Crackers

MAKES ABOUT 50 CRACKERS

Buttery-tasting millet flour and quinoa flour combine to make a neutral-flavored cracker that partners perfectly with dips and spreads. Sunflower seeds deliver a nutty flavor, along with beneficial fat to help make the crackers crisp.

½ cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
¾ cups quinoa flour, more for rolling
¾ cups millet flour
1 cup cornstarch
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
6 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup dairy-free milk of choice
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1½ teaspoons flax seeds
1½ teaspoons fennel seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

2. In a food processor, pulse the sunflower seeds with the quinoa flour until the seeds are finely ground. Add the millet flour, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, baking powder, xanthan gum, sea salt and garlic powder and process until combined.

3. Add the oil to the dry ingredients and pulse until combined.

4. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Add the milk and stir until the dough comes together. It may feel sticky at first but as the cornstarch absorbs the moisture, it will become easier to work with. Knead the dough in the bowl until the dough is smooth and cohesive, about 15 strokes.

5. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with quinoa flour and roll out 1 ball of dough into a rectangle that’s about 1/16-inch thick. The dough will have cracks at first but will smooth out as the dough is rolled. Mend any remaining cracks by pressing the dough together with your fingers.

6. Cut the dough into 2x3-inch rectangles using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, reserving scraps for re-rolling. Using a lightly floured spatula or bench scraper, transfer the crackers to prepared baking sheets, spacing them close together. Repeat with the remaining dough and scraps.

7. In a small bowl, combine the sesame, flax and fennel seeds. Sprinkle the seed mixture on the crackers and press with the bottom of a measuring cup to adhere.

8. Place crackers in preheated oven and bake until golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and back to front once while baking.

9. Cool the crackers on a rack and store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Each cracker contains 53 calories, 3g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 85mg sodium, 6g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein.

Recipe adapted from Crackers and Dips (Chronicle Books) by Ivy Manning, for release Spring 2013.

 


 

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Graham Crackers

MAKES 45 CRACKERS

Just like you had growing up, these grahams are a great dessert alternative to holiday cookies and they make delectable s'mores. Try them for breakfast, spread with jam or nut butter (if tolerated). They can be made vegan by substituting agave nectar for the honey.

2½ tablespoons soy milk, rice milk or almond milk
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon molasses
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅔ cup “sweet” white sorghum flour, more for dusting
⅓ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup teff flour
⅓ cup tapioca starch/flour
¼ cup lightly packed brown sugar
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon powdered cinnamon, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil or dairy-free margarine, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. Mix together the milk, honey, molasses and vanilla, stirring well to dissolve the honey and molasses.

3. In a food processor, pulse the sorghum, brown rice and teff flours, tapioca starch/flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and salt.

4. Add coconut oil or margarine and pulse until mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal.

5. Gradually add the milk mixture through the feed tube, pulsing until the dough just comes together. Gather up the dough, press it into a 4x5-inch rectangle. Wrap it in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

6. Dust a sheet of plastic wrap with sorghum flour. Place the dough on the plastic wrap, dust with a bit more flour, cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and roll out the dough until it is about 1/16-inch thick.

7. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap. Using a pastry cutter or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2½x3-inch rectangles. Use an offset spatula to transfer the crackers to prepared baking sheet. Prick crackers all over with a fork.

8. In a small bowl, combine the remaining cinnamon and the sugar. Sprinkle the mixture over the crackers. Bake until the crackers are firm around the edges when poked with your finger, 18 to 20 minutes. The centers may feel soft and puffy; they will crisp up as they cool. Transfer the crackers to a cooling rack immediately. Once cool, store the crackers in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Each cracker contains 32 calories, 1g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat,0mg cholesterol, 26mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate,0g fiber, 0g protein.

 


 

Flax Seed Pizza Crackers

MAKES 40 CRACKERS

These grain-free crackers are made with soaked flax seeds, almond flour (or coconut flour) and garbanzo bean flour to create a healthy, protein-rich snack with an Italian pizza-like flavor. Good eaten by the handful, they also shine when topped with slices of gluten-free hard Italian salami and roasted red peppers.

½ cup golden flax seeds
⅓ cup hot tap water, more if needed
⅓ cup chopped oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon oil from sundried tomatoes or extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 large fresh basil leaves
1½ teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup almond flour (or ½ cup + 2 tablespoons blanched, slivered almonds, ground in food processor) or ½ cup + 2 table-spoons coconut flour*
½ cup garbanzo bean flour

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper so that they fit neatly into a rimmed baking sheet (each parchment piece should be about 11x16 inches); set aside.

2. Place the flax seeds and hot water in a food processor bowl and let them soak until the mixture is gelatinous, about 15 minutes.

3. Add the sundried tomatoes, yeast, oil, garlic, basil, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Process until mixture becomes a gummy batter, about 30 seconds, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. Add the almond flour and garbanzo bean flour and pulse until the mixture comes together into a sticky ball, about 20 pulses.

5. Turn the dough out onto one of the pieces of parchment paper. With damp fingertips, pat the dough out into a 6x6-inch square. Cover the dough with the second piece of parchment paper and roll it out to the edges of the parchment paper into an 11x6-inch rectangle (the dough should be about 1/16-inch thick), picking up the top piece of parchment once or twice to make sure there are no creases in the surface of the dough. It’s okay if the rectangle does not have perfect edges or if a bit of dough squishes out the side of the paper; reserve it for patching.

6. Remove the top layer of parchment paper and use the reserved scraps of dough to patch any empty edges or corners, pressing with damp fingertips to smooth the dough into shape. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Keeping the dough on the parchment paper, transfer both dough and parchment paper to a baking sheet.

7. Place in preheated oven and bake, rotating baking sheet once, until the crackers are firm to the touch around the edges and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the firm crackers from the baking sheet and transfer them to a cooling rack.

8. Move around the undone crackers so they are evenly spaced on the baking sheet and continue to bake, watching carefully, until the edges begin to brown and the crackers are firm to the touch, about 8 to 10 minutes more. (The centers of the thickest crackers may feel a little puffy; the crackers will continue to firm up as they cool).

9. Once cool, store the crackers in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Each cracker contains 34 calories, 2g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 69mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein.

*TIP If using coconut flour, you may need more water to make the dough sticky.

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Ivy Manning (ivymanning.com) is author of The Farm to Table Cookbook, The Adaptable Feast (Chronicle Books) and the forthcoming Crackers and Dips (Chronicle, Spring 2013). She is a columnist for Oregonian Food Day and teaches whole-grain cooking and baking classes at Bob’s Red Mill in Portland, Oregon.

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