We celebrated Jan’s birthday this week so I made her favorite soup, Karl’s Crawdady Corn Chowder. I have already posted that recipe (in August), but I also made her favorite crackers to go with it. This started as a bon appétit recipe for Common Crackers, which I seriously tweaked. The first time I made this recipe they came out as flakey, crisp crackers. The second time I made it they were chewy, round rocks. The secret is getting the butter incorporated into the flower without letting it melt into the butter. To paraphrase an old saying, “warm hands, bad tart.”
I was watching a food show, I think it was Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and the chef being highlighted used a technique of rolling the out the flour and butter in a gallon bag to press the butter into flakes without directly handling it. She was using ¼ inch pats of butter, which made these really big butter flakes. The show’s chef also used a technique if pin-wheeling the dough to quickly create a lot of buttery layers. I thought that if I combined these techniques with the pastry cutter I was already using it would be the perfect way to guarantee flakey crackers.
The name of these crackers comes from Jan’s response to having them the first time. You cannot eat just one of them and, if you are on any kind of a diet, they are simply too dangerous to have around.
Karl Don’t Make These Crackers
(!!! Warning: These Crackers may be hazardous to your diet!!!)
4 cups all-purpose flour plus more (use the measure and scrape method)
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled half-and-half plus more
Pinch Flor de Sal (medium course grained sea salt from Spain)
1. Put dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well (I run it through a flour sifter a couple of times).
2. Slice the cold butter into thin pats and drop them into the flour. Stir occasionally so the pats are covered in flour and do not stick together. Use a pastry cutter to break butter into small pieces. The trick here is to cut the butter into small pieces without causing it to start to melt. Do not over work the butter.
3. Put the flour/butter mixture into a sealable gallon bag. Press as much air out as you can and seal it. Put the bag in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
4. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dry flour and butter. Mix up the bags contents and continue to roll it out until the butter pieces are small flakes. If you think the butter may be getting warm, return the bag to the refrigerator for 15 minutes before continuing.
5. Put the flour mixture back in the bowl and make a well. Pour in the cup plus 2 tablespoons of cold half-and-half (do not skip the two extra tablespoons of half-and-half, as it is very hard to add them later). Stir briefly until most of the flour has been moistened. A little dry flour is OK, but add another teaspoon of cream if there is a lot of dry flour in the bottom of the bowl.
6. Turn out the dough onto a board (a pastry marble if possible) and flatten dough into a rough rectangle (wider than tall). Scrape up any dry flour or dough bits and spread it over the dough. Fold the left and right edges of the rectangle into the middle and gently stretch and press the dough.
7. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and press out into a rectangle again. The point is to make sure the flour is fully moistened and the butter is spread out inside the dough. Again, be careful not to overwork the dough and melt the butter bits.
8. Roll out the rectangle into a a 3/8 inch sheet. Fold the left and right edges of the rectangle into the middle and then roll the long rectangle of dough into a pin-wheel.
9. Press the rolled up dough back into a 1 inch thick rectangle. Put it back into the plastic bag and chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
10. Preheat oven to 400°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
11. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 3/8” thick (for biscuit like crackers) or ¼” (for a something more like a traditionally cracker). Roll even thinner if you wish a saltine like cracker.
12. Using the 2” lid of a Kerr jar (or similar open jar lid) cut out rounds and lay them on the prepared sheets. Gather and reroll the dough and repeat until the dough is used up.
13. Brush the rounds with cream and if desired sprinkle with a few grains of Flor de Sal or Kosher salt.
14. Bake crackers until golden brown, 20-24 minutes (less for really thin crackers). Do not overcook.
15. Let cool on a wire rack, and (if they last long enough, which they rarely do) store in an airtight container at room temperature.