Gluten free crackers
This post documents my work to develop a gluten free cracker.
My interest in gluten free baking is primarily because we have a family friend who is seriously gluten intolerant. Its her birthday – today in fact, and so one of the things I am preparing for her are these very crackers.
I’m pretty happy with the result – it tastes like a cracker and it was able to hold together in the rolling out process – something that is the plague of gluten free recipes! It’s yellow – the result of the corn and chickpea flour. Like other crackers they can be flavoured in a variety of ways.
A word about ingredients and measuring. You can probably tell I like to work with weights and not volumes. And within that I prefer grams to ounces. They are somehow more precise, easier to understand. However, I do understand that not everyone has a weigh scale, and many prefer their sets of spoons and measuring cups to a weigh scale. So be it. Weighing vs volume has also been a bit of an issue recently in the cooking twitterverse. I don’t think anyone is arguing that volume measurements are intrinsically better, its a matter of what people are ‘used to’! But weigh scales are no longer the purvue of pro’s. They’re less than $20 and available at any hardware store. You will find your cooking will take a huge uptick in its consistency once you start using one.
To reduce the possible barriers for any readers who really are used to using their spoons and cups, I’ve used approximate imperial measure volumes as well as weights – but I won’t guarantee the results!
300g flour – a combination of rice, chickpea and corn flour. (@2 1/2 cups)
1.5 tsp of Xanthan gum. The ratio of xanthan to flour appears to be 1/2 tsp per 100g. of flour, but I am new at this, and would welcome further insight.
15 g salt – (3tsp) I have tended to settle on 5% salt per flour weight for crackers. This yields a salty but not too salty cracker. If you have something against salt, try 3% and the salt will be more in the background.
30g oil. Any good oil can be used and what you use will subtly change the flavour. If the gluten free person you cook for has dairy issues, then use olive, sunflower or coconut. If not, melted butter could be an option and give you a completely different flavour and texture. The ratio here is 10% of the flour weight. (2 1/2 tbs)
water – in a 5:3 bakers ratio – so in this case it will be 180ml (a little more than 3/4 cup). Its important the dough be more, rather than less hydrated. Its easier to sprinkle more flour on to lessen the stickiness than to try to add water and re-knead a dry dough.
Flavours: The possibilities are endless! Where do you want to take it? I’ve used fennel and cumin, also pepper, italian herbs, garlic, dijon brushed on before going in the oven. Its really a matter of how you want your crackers to be – do you want them to sing on their own and proclaim their deliciousness, or be the quiet background supports to a fine cheese or chutney? For half of this quantity I used about 1 tbs each of cumin and fennel seeds. For the other half I used similar quantities of cumin and Berbere spice mix.
For gluten free crackers, the way and amount the cracker dough is kneaded is important, as it is all too easy for the dough to break apart, forcing you to start over. It truly gives a new meaning to the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
- Combine all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Combine and mix the water and oil. They won’t truly combine but even a temporary emulsification can help.
- Add the water/oil a little at a time to the dry ingredients, and knead until the dough is mixed. Let it stand while you do the next pieces of preparation.
- Turn oven on to 450-500. For this batch I used the convection oven setting at 475, and found it took 7 minutes.
- Prepare a small bowl with oil and a brush; pull out cookie trays, make sure your rolling area is clear, clean and dry.
- Brush oil on the baking trays.
- Prepare flavorings.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is 2-3 centimetres thick. Sprinkle/brush on the flavorings you want. (doing it this way provides you with a consistent cracker base, allowing you to play with multiple flavorings )
- Fold the dough over once and roll out again, until it is thin enough to go through your lasagne roller. If you are using only a rolling pin, keep rolling gently as long as the dough maintains its integrity and the sheet is as thin as it can go. Stop when you see it begin to break apart. Add the minimum amount of flour to keep it from sticking.
- If using a lasagne roller, begin with the widest setting, and push it through as few times as are necessary to achieve a consistent good sized sheet.
- Put it through one more time on the second thickest setting, again, as little as you need to to achieve a consistent sheet that does not break apart.
- Gently transfer the cracker sheets to the already oiled cookie tray, cutting excess bits.
- Brush oil over the top of the sheets. If you are adding any flavouring at this point (e.g. mustard, garlic butter, etc.) do so now.
- Use a pizza wheel or ravioli wheel to cut the sheets into the desired cracker sized sizes and shapes.
- Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes, according to when they are done. Watch them and smell them carefully. When you first begin to smell the slightest whiff of a burn, take them out immediately. You will find that due to the microclimates in your stove they will not all have cooked evenly. A couple may be too dark while a couple of others may still not be crisp.
- Let them cool down to room temperature and enjoy!
- They will stay crisp for a couple of weeks – if they last that long!