Thursday 22 November 2012

Left Coast Crackers

My friend Laurel, who moved here from Ontario, often laughs about our west coast fondness for whole food fanciness.  She once joked that when she orders a grilled cheese sandwich in a restaurant she expects white bread and processed cheese, not a provolone panini.  

Deli crackers would seem to prove Laurel’s point exactly.  Regular triscuits, wheat thins, and rice crackers can be found in the cracker aisle of our grocery stores but, in the deli, where the special stuff resides, rainforest crisps reign supreme.

Rainforest crisps are the whole food cousin of Melba toast, made with honey or molasses, lots of nuts and seeds, and dried fruit.  They’re baked as a loaf, then sliced thin and baked again to make crisps.  The ones in the grocery store are elegantly curled from this second baking process, and then packed a couple of dozen to a box and priced at $6.00 or more per package.

A few years back, a friend emailed me a recipe for a rainforest cracker I could bake at home.  I have no idea where the recipe originated but it’s been a standby in my kitchen ever since I received it.  It’s particularly handy during the holiday season, when we have company drop in and want to offer some quick, pretty nibbles for them to enjoy while visiting.

I’ve amended the recipe a little bit over the years, to suit my personal taste and the ingredients I usually have on hand, and I bake mine in a single 9 x 13 rectangular cake pan instead of in the small loaf pans the original recipe called for. 

Perhaps because I don’t slice them quite so thinly as the commercial product, my crackers don’t curl up like the ones for sale in the deli, but they taste every bit as good.  Better still, I can bake well over a hundred crisps for less money than one single deli package would cost.

To make Left Coast Crackers you’ll need:

2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ground flax seeds (I grind my own, in a coffee grinder)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary (not pictured)
2 cups buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk on hand this time so I used diluted evaporated milk with lemon juice mixed in.  You can find the instructions here.)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground flax seeds, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds.

In another bowl, mix together the buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses. 

Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, just until combined.

Add in the cranberries, walnuts, and sunflower seeds and stir gently to distribute them through the batter.

Pour the batter into a buttered or oiled 9 x 13 inch cake pan.

Bake it on the middle shelf of a pre-heated 350F oven for 45 minutes.  (I turn the pan halfway through the baking time to help ensure more even cooking.)  Your cracker "cake" is done when the center springs back when lightly touched and a pick inserted into the center comes out mostly dry, with just a few crumbs clinging to it.

Place the pan on a rack and allow your cracker cake to cool completely.

When it has cooled, slice the cake in half lengthwise and then cut each half cross-wise into thin slices (1/8 inch thick or less).  Don't worry if the slices are not perfect.  They'll taste just fine anyway.

Lay the slices flat on parchment paper lined baking sheets.  You can place them close together as they won’t spread during the second baking.

Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, for about 15 minutes in a 300F oven.  Turn them over, return them to the oven to bake another 10 minutes. 

Check the crackers at this point.  They should be dry and crisp but may still be slightly flexible.  (They’ll continue to crisp up as they cool.) 

I often find that the crackers around the outside of the sheet are done and can be removed to racks to cool, but the ones in the center of the pan may need a few more minutes cooking time.  Just return them to the oven to finish drying.

Once your crackers are all twice-cooked and cooled, store them in an airtight container.  I’m told they’ll keep for a couple of weeks but, at our house, they're eaten long before that.


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chow and chatter said...

these look awesome fun recipe and name

Aunt B said...

Thanks Rebecca. :)

April @ The 21st Century Housewife said...

Those are really very special crackers indeed! Your photographs of them are beautiful. I'd love to serve them with a cheese tray. Thank you for sharing this delicious - and also very healthy - recipe!

Aunt B said...

Thank you April. I'm glad you liked the recipe, and the photos. I'm rather pleased with how they turned out. Thanks for hosting another great gallery. I always enjoy the posts I find there.

mub said...

Do you think honey would work instead of molasses? I have a heck of a hard time finding molasses where I am.

Aunt B said...

Honey will work fine. Your crackers will have a slightly sweeter taste and they'll be lighter in colour.

Alea Milham said...

So glad to hear the west coast of Canada is similar to the West coast of the US when it comes to wholesome food. At the first spouses meeting for my husband's Test Pilot school class (located in MD) all of us West coast wives put "where to find brown bread" at the top of the agenda! :)

Aunt B said...

lol Alea! I would imagine that trying to find familiar foods must be a big challenge if you move as much as most military families do. :)

Printabelle said...

I haven't seen these in the stores by where I live, but they look wonderful! Thanks for the recipe!

Aunt B said...

They may be a west coast-ish thing. ;) They are very good though. I hope you give them a try.

Charlene@APinchofJoy said...

Sounds wonderful and very healthy. Noticed the buttermilk substitution -- very helpful! Thanks so much for sharing on Busy Monday!

Aunt B said...

Thanks Charlene. I'm glad you liked the recipe.

Miz Helen said...

Hi Aunt B,
I just love these Crackers and would love to try them. Hope you are having a great weekend and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen

Aunt B said...

Thanks Miz Helen. I'm glad you like the recipe. I found lots of interesting links at this week's party. Thanks for hosting.

Amy Davis said...

I tried these, they turned out great and are SOOOO good! Thanks so much for the recipe.

Aunt B said...

Thanks Amy, for letting me know that you tried them. I'm glad they turned out well for you. :)

Amanda said...

Not only do these crackers sound delicious but they look beautiful! I am going to try them for an upcoming holiday gathering. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes each week with Delicious Dish Tuesday. This week I am featuring this recipe :)

Aunt B said...

Thank you Amanda. I'm honoured that you're featuring the recipe. I'm really glad you like it.

Laureen @FoxKitchen said...

Saw your recipe on Hearth and Soul. Love it! These are for sure going on my Holiday baking list :)

Aunt B said...

Thanks for stopping by to check it out Laureen. I'm glad you like it.