The day before Christmas Eve, my mom and I wandered about Whole Foods picking up miscellaneous things for our holiday dinner. We spent an inordinate amount of time at the cheese counter, discussing cow vs. goat vs. sheep, what types of salamis might be good, and circling the olive bar with a highly critical eye, making sure to buy extra amounts of our particular favorites. When the subject of crackers vs. bread came up, I emphatically stated crackers but was a little bored by the thought. Water crackers, oh joy. We needed to zip this charcuterie platter up! Then while waiting for some sliced proscuitto, I looked down. Raincoast Crisps. Perfect.
Toasty, flavorful crackers packed with seeds and nuts and fruit, they were so much more interesting than the usual water cracker and I admit, I’m a little late to the party on this one. They were exactly what we needed and were particularly good with the paté and soft cheeses we had purchased. Accordingly, they had a matching fancy price. 9 bucks. Sheesh. I was curious. I bet could make these. A little internet research revealed that indeed I could make these. Easily. So a week later, for a New Year’s Eve dinner, I did.
I read a few different recipes and settled on this one for a cranberry rosemary pecan variety, as it was a bit simplified from the others. Being a fan of rye, I worked in some dark rye flour (something I had on hand from a project) and loved the deep, toasty flavor it gave the finished crackers. Whole wheat could work but why not, given the opportunity, try some of the fun whole grain flours out there like spelt, buckwheat or what have you?
While I very much liked the fig and olive variety we had purchased, in keeping with my New Year’s resolution to use what I had, I remembered that bag of dried cranberries I’d been ignoring for far too long. They were, to put it bluntly, a little old and more than a little sad. I’d hesitated to toss them many times, thinking at some point I’d find a use. Noticing the first step in the recipe was to soak the cranberries in hot water to plump a bit, I rejoiced! I finally found a use for those sad, dry little berries. That the recipe also contained ingredients that were crowding my pantry– pumpkin seeds, pecans, sunflower seeds – was incredibly fortunate. Bingo.
My first batch was great but my second batch was even better. For that one, I increase the fruit a smidge and added sesame seeds as I like the flavor and the look in the original crackers.
The one thing I have to point out … these are a bit of a pain in the butt. If you’ve ever made biscotti, you’ve got this but then you’re also aware of the finicky nature of a second bake. Precisely cutting a frozen loaf into thin slices isn’t exactly a joy. That being said, these turned out fantastic and the options to mix these up are endless so I think its worth the effort. Just look to the original flavors for inspiration … Dates & Almonds, Fig & Olive, Apricot Fig & Lemon. Or come up with your own; I think a dried cherry hazelnut or a raisin walnut rosemary would be quite wonderful. I’ll get to those at some point.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: SMART AND CRAFTY. The theme of my last few posts has been using what you have and this one fits right in rather nicely. I often find that I’ll buy a bag of something, like rye flour for example, and use only ½ cup. The rest just sits in my kitchen cabinet and slowly goes rancid. This recipe will help with that. Or a good option is to go somewhere with a nice bulk selection, say Whole Foods, and buy only what you need. Cheaper pricing, less packaging and no leftovers. That I made what were $9 crackers with stuff I had in my house is a win-win on all counts. To be fair, these contain some pricey ingredients with the nuts and fruits so they are not cheapo crackers by any means. If you went out and purchased all the stuff you’d probably spend $9 but you’d end up with at least four times as many crackers. Let’s not forget that having a few frozen loaves in the freezer is quite the party trick. Fresh crackers, minimal effort in under an hour is a rather impressive feat. If you’re bored with the standard crackers or tired of shelling out your hard earned dollars for fancy ones, make these. They’re delicious, impressive, endlessly variable and are a great use for stuff you have crowding your pantry.
Seven years ago: Sunchoke Soup
Six years ago: Cheddar Monkey Bread, Baked Squash Bread Pudding
Five years ago: Caramelized Roasted Pears, Navy Bean Soup, Music in the Kitchen
Four years ago: Posole Verde, Strecca di Nonna (stick bread)
Three years ago: Swedish Cardamom Buns
Two years ago: Scratch Rum Cake
Last year: Flourless Chocolate Cookies
1 ¼ cup dried cranberries (5 ½ ounces)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark rye flour (or whole wheat, spelt, or interesting other whole-grain flour)
1 ½ Tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1 Tablespoon dry rosemary)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pecans
½ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray four mini-loaf pans (5″ x 2 ½”) with cooking spray and line with a piece of parchment paper. Place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan until needed.
- Place the dried cranberries in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Allow to plump for at least 15 minutes while you continue preparing the batter.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the two flours, rosemary, baking soda, and salt.
- Mix in the brown sugar, making sure to break up any big clumps.
- Pour the buttermilk over the mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula until just combined and fully moistened.
- Drain the cranberries and add to the batter along with the chopped pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Stir gently to evenly combine.
- Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans, filling about ¾ full.
- Bake 30-35 minutes, until the tops have domed and turned golden-brown, and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaves comes out clean.
- Remove the loaves from the pans and cool completely.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze solid, several hours or over night. (If you’re planning to freeze the loaves for longer than a day, place the plastic wrapped loaves in freezer Ziploc bags. Loaves can be kept frozen up to 3 months.)
- When ready to make the crisps, heat the oven to 300°F. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line sheet pans with parchment and set aside until needed.
- Remove one of the loaves from the freezer and slice it as thin as possible using a serrated knife, 1/8” to 1/16” thick. It’s easier if you let the frozen loaves defrost ever so slightly – 10-15 minutes.
- Lay the slices in a single layer on the prepared sheet pans.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Flip and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes. The crackers are done when they are no longer pale in the middle, feel dry to the touch and are curled slightly at the edges. The crackers will continue to crisp a bit as they cool. Keep an eye on the second bake – thinner crackers will crisp up quicker than others, especially if a few were sliced unevenly.
- Continue baking the remaining crackers in the same manner.
- Crackers will keep, tightly wrapped at room temperature, for several weeks.