Sourdough Rye crisp breads – extra thin and snappy with it! The Holy Grail for me at least of rye crackers is that they should snap and be brittle, something like a potato crisp (chip in US English) rather than something you have to gnaw your way through. Stale crisp breads usually respond well to a reheat in the oven, but if they are too thick and hard then they are no fun at all.
Like just about everything in the wonderful world of bread, tastes vary and this is what makes it all the more worthwhile making your own and finding your way to the breads you want to eat yourself.
I adapted Dan Lepard’s recipe in Short & Sweet to use 250 g of lovely rye starter and dried milk powder and I am really pleased with the results. Really, really ecstatically pleased! Dan’s recipe is much faster than this, as he says, you can grab a bag of rye flour and have crackers 20 minutes later, (I am not sure I think that fast, let alone collect ingredients in that time, but I am not going to argue about it). I am going to try the original way too and see how they taste.
When I first tried making crisp breads, armed with my special Swedish pin from my Aunt they came out hard and bendy not sweet and snappy like these and the only reference I made to them on the blog was as a mystery item in this quiz post back last summer. Nobody guessed what they were either; now that time I used another of Dan’s recipes so I reckon it is all down to practice, no one wants to hear that but I think that’s the bottom line.
From my huge experience (who am I kidding? I’ve done this all of three times now) I think that recipes for crispbreads are just a starting point and that what really matters is how you roll them out and temperature and cooking time – so you need to experiment a bit rather than expect to follow a recipe blindly and get it right from the first attempt. Having said that there is always the God of amateur bakers benignly dusting her flour shaker and bestowing her grace on us humble mortals…
Anyway I LOVE these!
If you can get them really thin they are completely and utterly wonderful, and I speak as someone who has eaten a lot of indifferent rye crispbreads over the years….
I made very small balls, dusted them with flour, flattened them with my hand and then rolled them out as thin as I could, using light rye flour – if you don’t have this then sieve some coarse rye flour to get rid of the bran if you want to have a lighter flour.
I also had a narrow smooth rolling Turkish rolling pin. Much easier to see and feel what you are doing with one of these than my big fat rolling pin which always seems to stick to everything. I pinched off quite small balls of dough, half the size of a golf ball approx, and kept dusting board and hands as I went. Then I pressed the balls out, rolled them into round-square shapes, turning the shapes by a quarter after each roll to make sure they didn’t stick. After a while I got into a rhythm and I enjoyed doing these.
My pin came from Turkey with my neighbour who went there for a holiday. What a lovely gift! It looks like a piece of dowel. It makes a difference, can’t figure out quite why but it does, you can apply light and even pressure and you can see what you are doing much better than with a big rolling pin. You are also liable to hit things off the worktop with it if you don’t clear a space before you start, but that’s all part of the fun!
I used a roll press to press a spiral pattern into the crackers for decoration, and I rolled the Swedish pin over a couple to see what that would look like. Cookie cutters would work, as long as you have a spatula to lift them onto the baking sheet for baking as they are very delicate. I rolled a few sesame seeds on some of them, you can season them just about with anything you think will work, I am thinking about fennel seeds and dill seed maybe?
I thought about leaving them to rise a bit, but I didn’t in the end.
I baked them in an electric fan oven on floured trays at 180 C for 7 – 8 minutes. The thinnest ones baked perfectly in 7 minutes, the slightly thicker ones needed a minute longer. Anything handmade like this is always going to be subject to variations. I recommend baking a few at a time and keeping a close eye on them, taking them out, testing etc then you can fine tune your rolling out and your bake times.
Only thing is, now I’ve got a cracker I adore, I don’t want to buy them any more…
I also made the cider and pumpkin farls, which were the other option for this week’s baking for Short and Tweet; hefty ribsticking food, using butternut squash and some rather nice Belgian cider. A farl is a sort of fried scone. We had those for supper with bacon and a poached egg one night and the leftovers reheated well the next day for a brunch. They are not what I call a delicate bread, the texture of mine was somewhere between a stottie and a piece of cooked polenta, rather than a fluffy scone which was what they were supposed to be like. Maybe it’s down to how much moisture you squeeze out of the veg before you add it to the dough. Anyway they are quick to put together and quick to cook and you can tweek the ingredients and the seasonings to your heart’s content. If you are a stove top bread fan, don’t overlook this recipe at the back of the book just because it has no photo with it. Look at my photos and the round up post to see just what they look like.