My wife and I generally do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Our first date was on February second, and that is the day we mark as ours—at the time, groundhogs were the furthest thing from our minds. This year, however, Jan took a fancy to a deli dinner with heart shaped crackers. Anything for my wife.
Karl’s Rosemary Valentine Crackers
2+ cups all-purpose flour, separate uses
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. Karl’s Orange Infused Sugar
½ Tbs. dried rosemary, ground
½ tsp. black pepper, ground
½ cup heated half-and-half
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 large egg, lightly scrambled
1 tsp. Flor de Sal (medium course grained sea salt from Spain)
1 heart shaped cookie cutter
1. Put the flour, the baking powder, 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.
Note: In America, “self-rising flour” is uncommon. If you are using this leave out the baking powder and salt.
2. Stir in the sugar, rosemary, and black pepper.
3. Put the cream into a two cup measure and heat it until just to a boil.
Tip: In reading my mother’s Monkey bread recipe, she used scaled milk to get a more tender bread. I thought this might work for crackers as well.
4. Cut the butter into pats and add them to the milk.
Tip: The butter will melt and cool off the hot cream.
5. When the butter and cream are cool enough—to not to cook the egg—add the egg to the measuring cup and lightly beat them together.
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 and knead the dough until all of the dry flour has been incorporated, about five minutes.
Tip: I use a pastry marble.
Note: When I make 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. The butter binds up some of the flour and prevents too much gluten from forming, giving you a more tender cracker.
8. Divide the dough in half and form the dough into smooth balls.
9. Let the dough balls rest for 10 minutes in a large bowl covered with a damp towel.
10. 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.
Tip: Use a board scrapper to push in the sides of the square, so that any breaks in the edges of the dough are smoothed out and the dough is a fairly even rectangle.
11. Turn the dough over, so that both the top and bottom are well coated with flour.
12. Move the oven rack to the top position and pre-heat the oven to 400° F.
13. Roll the dough out into a 12 inch square about a ¼ inch thick.
14. Transfer the dough square onto a sheet of parchment paper, the size of a large, lip-less, cookie (baking) sheet and cover it with a damp towel.
15. While the first batch of dough is resting, roll out the second ball of dough.
Tip: A period of resting allows the gluten in the dough to relax and it is easier to roll the dough out more thinly.
16. Dust the board well with flour and lay the first batch of dough on the board.
Tip: You are going to use a cookie cutter to make the heart shaped crackers, so you do not want the dough to stick to the board.
Note: Place the second batch of dough under the damp towel to rest.
17. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about an ⅛th inch thick.
18. Use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut the dough sheet into individual crackers.
19. Use a sharp edged spatula to transfer the cut hearts to a parchment lined cookie sheet.
20. Once you have a sheet full of crackers, use a water spray bottle to moisten the tops of the crackers.
21. Sprinkle a bit of salt on each cracker and place the cookie sheet into a 400º F oven.
22. Bake crackers until they are starting to have some golden brown spots, about 12-15 minutes.
Tip: Rotate the pan halfway through the cooking time.
Note: Keep a close eye on the crackers during the last few minutes of cooking, the difference between crisp and burnt is fairly short.
23. Repeat steps x to xx with the second batch of dough.
24. Gather the dough scraps from both batches and knead them into a ball.
Tip: You may need to spritz a little bit of water on them, as the scraps may have dried out a bit.
25. Roll out the scraps and continue cutting until you run out of dough.
Note: For the first few hours the crackers will be a bit soft and chewy. By the second day they will dry out completely and be crisp and crunchy. You may speed up this process putting any soft ones into a baking pan and setting it into the cooling oven for 20 minutes to “crisp” the cracker.
26. Cool the crackers on a wire rack and store in a seal-able plastic bag, if you are not going to enjoy them immediately.