The kids are not coming over for dinner tonight, so Jan wants cheese and crackers for dinner (AKA deli dinner). She wanted some plain crackers, but I have been testing the limits of fresh crackers. Today’s savory cracker is rosemary Parmesan topped with salt and pepper.
Karl’s Rosemary Parmesan Crackers
2+ cups all-purpose flour, separate uses
2 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. dried rosemary, ground finely
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, lightly scrambled
¼+ cup chilled half-and-half, separate uses
Pinch Flor de Sal or Kosher salt (optional)
Pinch fresh cracked pepper (optional)
1. Put 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl and mix well.
Tip: I run the dry mixture through a flour sifter 4-5 times to get a good even mix. I would use Kosher salt, but the crystals are too large to go through my sifter.
2. Whisk the Parmesan and rosemary into the flour mixture.
3. Add the butter to the flour and mix it in well.
Tip: Use your hands to work the butter into the flour completely. The flour should look a bit like wet sand when you are through. You are trying to get as much of the butter absorbed by the flour as you can.
4. Put the egg in a measuring cup and lightly beat it.
5. Add enough cream to make ¾ of a cup and beat it into the egg.
6. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the cream mixture into it. Stir briefly, until most of the flour has been moistened.
Tip: A little dry flour is OK, but add another teaspoon or two of cream if there is a lot of dry flour in the bottom of the bowl.
7. Turn out the dough onto a board (a pastry marble if possible) and knead the dough until all of the dry flour has been incorporated, about five minutes.
Note: When I made these crackers with cold butter you had to be careful not to overwork the dough and melt the butter into the flour. With this method the more you knead the dough the better. Since the butter is binding up most of the flour, you need to help the dough make as much gluten as it can.
8. Divide the dough in half and form the halves into smooth balls. Put them in a large bowl and cover them with a damp towel.
9. Dust a clean flat surface with two tablespoons of flour and press one of the dough balls into a 4 inch flat square about one half inch thick.
10. Turn the dough over, so that both the top and bottom are well coated with flour.
11. Move the oven rack to the top position and pre-heat the oven to 400° F.
12. Roll the dough out into a 12 inch square about a ¼ inch thick.
13. Transfer the dough square onto a sheet of parchment paper, the size of a large, flat, lip-less, cookie (baking) sheet.
14. Roll the paper and dough together into a cylinder, to keep the dough from drying out, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Tip: When you roll out dough, the gluten has the tendency to tighten up and try to snap back to its original shape. Resting give it the opportunity to relax and adjust to its new shape, allowing you to stretch it further when you start rolling it out again.
15. While the first dough is resting, repeat steps 9-14 with the second dough ball.
16. Unroll the first dough and starting from the middle of the square of dough roll it out into a rectangle at least 1/8th inch thick (the thinner the better).
Tip: Leave the dough on the parchment paper while you are rolling it out. You want the dough to cover most of your baking sheet, but you do not want it drooping over the edges.
Note: The parchment paper will tend to pucker as you are rolling out the dough. Grip the edges of the paper on opposite sides and pull to smooth it out, before continuing to roll out the dough.
17. Use a rolling dough cutter to cut the sheet into individual crackers.
A Note on Shape: I have a jagged edged pastry wheel which gives the crackers a decorative edge. You could also use a sharp knife or rolling pizza cutter to give your crackers a straight edge. You can cut the dough sheet into squares, rectangles or diamonds. If you would like round crackers, use the 2” lid of a Kerr jar (or similar open jar lid) to cut out rounds. Gather and re-roll any dough straps and repeat until the dough is used up.
18. Slide the parchment paper with the crackers onto the baking sheet.
Tip: Do not try to separate the crackers at this point. After they are baked they separate easily along the cut lines.
19. Brush the tops of the crackers with cream and, if you desire, sprinkle each cracker with a few grains of Flor de Sal or Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
20. Bake crackers until they are starting to have some golden brown spots, about 15 minutes (18-20 minutes for thick crackers).
Tip: Do not over bake. If the edges start to get dark brown they will taste burnt.
21. When done remove the crackers to a wire rack and let them cool.
Tip: Sometimes, because of uneven rolling, some of the crackers come out a bit soft when others are starting to get too browned. Cool the crackers and break them apart. Put the soft crackers into a pan and set them in the cooling oven for ten minutes after you have turn off the heat. This will dry them completely and crisp up the soft ones.