This should be the season of backyard entertaining, with some tasty snacks, fine friends, and a tipple or two. But with the pandemic continuing to keep us on lockdown, plans of grand gatherings are put on hold. This doesn’t mean the snacking has to stop. Quite the contrary!
Whether you’re feeding a family of four, or it’s just you and your cat, nothing beats a good charcuterie board. It’s so simple to prepare, there’s no real cooking involved, and it looks rather pretty especially when garnished with seasonal fruit.
Crackers go hand in hand with meat and cheese, and while in the deli section you’ve likely noticed how pricey those fancy artisan fruit and nut crackers are. They’re almost as much as a hunk of good cheese!
To save some bucks and learn a new kitchen skill, might I suggest making your own fancy crackers? It’s super simple, plus you know what you’re putting into the recipe, and you can customize the flavours as you like based on what’s in the pantry.
For this recipe I mixed some barley flour into regular all-purpose. I like the taste of barley flour in baking, plus there’s extra nutrients and fibre. You can use whole wheat or spelt as well. Next up is the dried fruit. I used the dried cranberries that were hanging out in my pantry, but dried cherries, chopped apricots, figs, even raisins would be a good choice.
Nuts can be whatever you have on hand. I usually keep them in the freezer, and lo and behold, I found a bag of walnuts near the back! Pecans, almonds, hazelnuts would all be excellent. I like a little seed action in my crackers so I used sesame, pumpkin and ground flax. If I had poppyseeds in the house, they would have been in there too! I added a little bit of this and that from the spice cabinet, but feel free to switch these up as you like. Buttermilk is the star of the show here, as it helps to create little air bubbles when combined with the baking soda.
A simple loaf is made, baked, frozen and then sliced into thin crackers, which are then baked again. These are like the biscotti of the cracker world! It’s hard not to pluck the crackers off the baking sheet while they are cooling, but try and save some for that charcuterie tray. Each loaf makes about 2 dozen crackers, but if your house is like my house, they won’t last long!
1 cup barley or whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup ground flaxseed
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch black pepper
2 cups (500 mL) buttermilk
¼ cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbs (45 mL) pure maple syrup
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 Tbs whole flaxseed
- Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. You can also use 8x4 inch loaf pans.
- In a large bowl, stir together all 14 dry ingredients (flour to pepper).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, brown sugar, maple syrup, and lemon zest. Add this to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
- Divide the batter between the loaf pans, smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Sprinkle the flaxseeds on top and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled, wrap the loaves tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 300º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves (they should still be partially frozen) as thinly as possible, ideally 3 mm thick. Place the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, flip over, and rotate the pans from top to bottom. Bake for another 15 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks. Store crackers in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 4 months.