Tag Archives: crackers

Senbei (Japanese Rice Crackers)

I recently visited two different Asian grocery stores and came home with a treasure trove of staples for future, mostly Japanese based, goodies.

Mochiko, is a sweet rice flour used for dango, mochi and, this post’s focus, “senbei” or savoury Japanese rice crackers. The same recipe was found on several web sites so I’ll post a link to only one.

Senbei

For additional umami, wrap your cracker in a strip of toasted nori.

Furikake (rice seasoning) was added to the dough before it was kneaded into a compact ball.  To ensure even sized crackers without weighing out each one individually, I cut the ball of cracker dough in half and then cut each half into eight wedges.

To make sure that the final cut was accurate, I formed each of the eight wedges into a ball (~16 gm) and then cut it in half before rolling it into a final hazelnut-sized ball (~8gm). The balls were placed between two sheets of sturdy plastic (a freezer bag cut along the two sides works well) and pressed flat with the lid of a large canning jar. I ended up with 32 thin disks (2 1/2-3″ in diameter) which were baked at 350 deg F for 8 minutes before being flipped over and baked for another 8 minutes until lightly golden.

For a final flourish, the oven was turned off, and the crackers were brushed with a mixture of soy sauce (aged, dark soy sauce or regular) and mirin and returned to the turned off oven for another 3 minutes. After cooling the tray on a rack for 15 minutes, the cool crackers may be stored in an air tight container to maintain crispiness, though you’ll nibble on these simple, but ‘morish’ crackers quickly enough that they won’t go soft.

REVIEW: Delicious and well worth making even if a bit time consuming. One batch of the dough gave me 32 crackers, which weighed about 170 grams.

Re-imagining Basic Recipes pt 2

I like recipes that you can modify for different dishes or presentations like the basic pasta dough recipe below. It’s based on the proportions used in the spinach pasta I made a while back.

A 10 oz batch of pasta coloured with 1/8 and 1/3 cup of beet puree, respectively. The colour isn’t dramatically different but I’m hoping the cooked pasta on the more concentrated batch will end up being much darker than in my first posts. And then maybe I can do a tricolour pasta dish.

 

Some adaptations are better than others. I used the last of my sourdough starter to make a batch of chickpea flour (besan) crackers. I added some nanami togarashi (7 spice chili blend) to flavour it. The crackers were tasty enough but I didn’t really taste the chickpea flour. The flavour may have been overcome by the all-purpose flour sourdough starter. Next time, I’ll use all chickpea flour and some baking powder for leavening.

The chocolate cookie cups were filled with various items from vanilla ice cream (topped with sprinkles) to homemade caramel sauce poured over chopped nuts (I used walnuts but pecans would be lovely) and then topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. And finally, mixed citrus curd lightened with whipped cream and topped with some more ice cream. I think a chocolate chip cookie (minus the chocolate chips), or even a gingerbread cookie, dough would give me a more versatile/neutral base for filling, but this was a good first attempt of the technique.

 

 

 

Mixed Citrus Curd Redux and Sourdough Starter Crackers

In the last week, I’ve had some unexpected free time (no work calls) so I whipped up a batch of mixed citrus curd using my basic lemon curd recipe. You can use any kind of citrus juice to make a curd, or even something like a tart raspberry juice. I was very excited about using blood orange juice to make curd, about a year ago, cause I imagined the colour would be a vibrant reddish-brown but it ended up being more of an orange-brown. It still tasted delicious however.

For this mixed citrus curd, I used 2 tsp each of lemon, lime and orange zest and equal parts of the various citrus juices to make 1/2 cup. The result is an amazing and versatile treat. I decided to leave the zest in the curd.

I also made a batch of crackers with some leftover sourdough starter and for fun, experimented with various shapes and flavours. Clockwise from the top – round fennel seed topped, plain bars, square cayenne pepper and sesame seeds and diamond shaped cracked pepper and Grana Padano cheese crackers. I wanted to use whole wheat flour but all I had was about half a cup of fine semolina (#1) so I used that and enough all purpose flour to get a firm dough.

I used a recipe I found on line for the proportions of starter/flour and the baking times but only let my dough sit on the counter for 2 hrs (for the first 2 trays) and 3 hrs (for the last tray) as I didn’t really want it to get more sour.

After baking

CONCLUSION: I enjoyed the crackers but they’re not something I’d make regularly. Too much time and effort for something I can buy fairly cheaply … even though my crackers had no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Use whole wheat flour for more texture and a deeper colour if you have it handy.

April Clear-out

I haven’t done much cooking in April, certainly nothing post-worthy, but I thought I’d share some of the tasty things I made.

Barbecue meal of giant hamburgers and sausages, with mac and cheese and corn side dishes, and a Mexican beer to wash it down.

Burgers (ground beef and pork) and sirloin tip steak, chicken breast basted with Jamaican barbecue sauce and Grill ’em sausages

Baked chicken drumsticks with the jerk bbq sauce, mac and cheese, onion rings and raw broccoli with ranch dressing

Oven baked pork chop and baked potato

Hot Italian sausage and broccoli over pasta

Thin crust pepperoni and mozzarella pizza

I picked up some frozen chicken cutlets and used them in several dishes including a Chicken Alfredo salad and a Mexican chicken and rice wrap with Taco Bell hot sauce.

Breakfast burrito with a pepperoni omelette, home fried potatoes, Mexican rice and avocado

Sushi – fake crab legs and avocado or cream cheese filling. I also made an attempt at a Caterpillar/Dragon roll with a garnish of spicy Mayo with flying fish caviar.

Orange curd and …

an orange loaf cake

Cheddar cheese straws and bars

Hybrid Basil Pesto Couronne (Crown), Asparagus and Broccoli Soup and Sesame Seed Crackers

ETA (06/21/2016) : Sesame Seed Cracker Recipe

When you’re a grown-up, you can’t play with Play-Doh but bread dough is just as much fun. And you get to eat it afterwards. Which is why I made this couronne (crown) or wreath filled with basil pesto. I briefly considered adding sun dried tomatoes to the mixture but then didn’t bother. Maybe next time.

You can make sweet versions too filled with everything from Nutella, chocolate spread or nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) to dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins), with or without a glaze.

The ‘crumb’ or inside of the crown

Hybrid Basil Pesto Brioche Couronne (Crown) – makes 1 loaf

3- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup active sourdough starter
1/2 cup warmed milk
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup basil pesto, home made or purchased
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish with another 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warmed milk. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and salt. Stir in sourdough starter, activated yeast mixture, eggs and butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you get a thick, smooth batter.

Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir then turn out your dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Knead for another 5-10 minutes until your dough is soft but not sticky. The egg yolks will give a golden colour to your dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl, add your dough ball, cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour.

Turn your risen dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper, flatten and roll out into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving about 1/2 an inch clear on the top and bottom of the long edge. Roll up, pinch the seam tightly and turn the roll over so it’s seam side down. With a pizza cutter, cut the roll in half. Turn the roll halves, cut side up and braid together, making sure you keep the cut side up. Form your braid into a circle, pinching together the 2 edges.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg. Fahrenheit.

Lightly cover the crown with a sheet of food wrap and let rise for 30-45. If you poke the dough gently, it will spring back up when it’s risen sufficiently. Sprinkle another couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the crown.

Bake the crown for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom is browned and set. (Check carefully after 10-12 minutes and if the top is getting too browned, cover with a large sheet of aluminum foil.)

I was really pleased with the oven spring I got on the crown.

Serving a wedge of this flavourful bread with a bowl of soup is a perfect pairing. I had a small bundle of fresh asparagus (and some broccoli stems in the freezer) so I made a small pot (3 servings) enriched with half and half. No potatoes and I strained the pureed veggies through a sieve so I ended up with a thin soup. The asparagus tips were blanched and added to my soup for texture.

Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

If you don’t want to make the bread, some home made crackers (sesame seed in this case) are a nice accompaniment to the soup. I’ll post the recipe later.

Sesame Seed Crackers cut into 1 inch squares and baked for 16 minutes.

Crispy Sesame Flatbread/Crackers – makes 12 flatbreads

1 2/3 cup / 200g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp each of black and white sesame seeds
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup / 120ml water

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°C.

In a bowl add in the dry ingredients, mix and then add in the wet ingredients. Mix and knead with your hand until it’s a smooth dough. You may have to add a bit more water or flour to reach a perfect non-sticky dough like in the photo.

On a lightly floured baking sheet roll out the dough as thin as possible. Make sure it’s evenly thin so it bakes evenly.

Cut around the frizzy corners with a pizza cutter and then divide the dough into separate flatbreads. You can make them bigger, longer or whatever you want!

Bake them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (until they get crispy and golden spots).

Serve for example with some homemade hummus or with soups. Enjoy!

Storage: Store them in an air-tight jar or zip-lock bag (after letting them cool off completely) to keep them crispy!

Cheddar Cheese Crackers or Straws … and some Chocolate Truffles

I have been eating well in the past few weeks but, other than 2 new soups and a trio of chocolate truffles, nothing worth posting about.

Speaking of truffles … here’s a picture. There are close-ups under the cut.

I used a semi-sweet chocolate ganache for the red (cranberry and French brandy) and green (mint extract and vodka) truffles. The white truffles (almond and orange extract and Cointreau) were made with a white chocolate ganache which, even with the addition of ground almonds, half again as much chocolate and reducing the whipping cream, never really hardened, even after frozen. I ended up rolling the resulting balls in ground almonds or Christmas themed chocolate shot.

I decided to share a fast and easy cheesy cracker recipe that will make a nice appetizer/nibble to enjoy with a glass of bubbly for New Year’s eve.

Cheese Crackers or Straws – makes about 4 dozen 2″ long, 1/8th of an inch thick crackers

2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese, yellow or white
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, for a moderate kick
paprika, sprinkled on top or 1/4 tsp added to dough for more color (optional)

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer combine all of the ingredients with the paddle to make a cohesive dough, sprinkling in a tablespoon or so of water if the dough doesn’t seem to want to come together. As soon as the dough starts to come together, turn off the mixer and gather it into a rough ball.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and roll into a shape that fits into your cookie press.

Chill if the dough is very soft or if you don’t have a cookie press and want to make Cheese Coins instead. In that case, roll the dough into a 16-inch log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in waxed paper or plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes. Then make like slice ‘n bake cookies by slicing into 1/8″ rounds.

For straws made in the cookie press, put dough into the tube of the press. Use the star-shaped disk. Squeeze out onto parchment. Close together is fine. Squeeze one long strand then cut it into 2-3″ segments and slightly offset them.

NOTE: I didn’t have a star-shaped disk for this cookie press so I used the ribbon disk instead and broke off in 2 inch pieces or cut a pan width segment into 1 1/2 – 2 inch pieces.

Sprinkle them with a bit of paprika, if desired and if you didn’t already add the paprika to the dough.

Bake in a preheated 375° F oven 11 minutes or until edges are just beginning to brown. (If using yellow cheddar and the paprika, you may have a hard time judging if the edges are browned as they’re pretty yellow. You will want to take them out after about 13 minutes in that case.)

Allow the crackers to cool on the pan for several minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.