Sunday, December 4, 2011

Simple Saltines

Alright, here's the deal. I hate p.h.o. You know, partially hydrogenated oil? That stuff is nasty. And it's all over the grocery store. It's in chips, cakes, cereal, pastries, crackers, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, icing, frozen entrees, margarine, shortening...the list goes on and on.
The culprit

This oil is evil for many reasons, but I'm only going to focus on three here.
1. It raises bad cholesterol and even lowers good cholesterol.* In other words, your body does not process this man made junk the same way it deals with fats that occur in nature. Instead, it goes haywire and knocks your health off balance.
2. It makes everything it’s in taste like plastic. Never mind the fact that its entire purpose is to stabilize processed foods’ taste and texture and increase their shelf life to near infinite bounds. Year-old Twinkie, anyone?
3. It tries to take all the fun out of baking at home--but that's where p.h.o. loses its power.
I refuse to let highly processed, store bought, preservative-riddled confections ruin my fun. Join me, won’t you? Let’s get cooking!

*Follow this link (and this one!) to learn more about the evils of trans fat

The internet is a-buzz with folks making their own crackers. What a delicious way to give p.h.o. the middle finger! Homemade crackers are the ultimate show-off food. And so simple to make. We’re going to start with the simplest cracker—the humble saltine.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
Oil for brushing
kosher or sea salt for sprinkling

Meez. (a.k.a. mise en place, or "set in place")

Pulse the flour and salt in a food processor. This entire recipe can be done by hand, no worries if you don’t own a food processor—delicious crackers can still be yours! Simply whisk the flour and salt together.

Add the melted butter and pulse until coarse. If you’re doing this by hand, keep whiskin’!

Slowly add the water while the machine is running. It will not form a ball, it’s not supposed to. It will be very crumbly. By hand: add water and use two forks to work it in, moistening all the flour. 

Pour the whole mess into a gallon zip top bag, moosh it all together, and form a disk. Make sure to push as much air out of the bag as possible. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax and will make the dough easier to roll out.
Preheat your oven to 400°F and brush two baking sheets lightly with oil.
Divide the dough in half and roll thin on a lightly floured counter. Seriously, roll it super thin. I’d use a pasta machine if you’ve got one. If you think it’s thin enough, go thinner.

Roll the whole sheet up around your rolling pin, transfer it to the baking sheet, and score into squares – about 2”x2”—with a pizza cutter. Don’t worry about separating the crackers, they’ll shrink as they bake and break themselves apart. Any that don’t do this during baking are easily separated once cooled. Brush lightly with oil, sprinkle with salt, and poke a few holes to keep puffing to a minimum.
Bake 8-10 minutes until toasty on the edges.  These critters brown quickly, so keep an eye out!

They’ll crisp up as they cool and keep for a few days in an airtight container. If you live in a humid climate, you may need to recrisp these. Just put them in a 350˚F oven for a few minutes.
Happy healthy snacking! Can’t wait to hear what you paired your treats with! :]

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