I have a hard time entertaining. Maybe it’s my mother’s influence but when I host a party I always go overboard. I am not content to buy foods that are already prepared and usually choose to try new complicated dishes that I’ve never made before. This weekend we had some friends over for the Labor Day Weekend and as usual I was overly ambitious. I made homemade pasta, focaccia, and two kinds of cobbler for dessert.
I take immense pleasure in feeding those I care about. Sitting around a table surrounded by friends with great food and even better conversation is when I am at my happiest. I did try to simplify the appetizers so I started with a simple cheese and charcuterie plate but I couldn’t resist making my own crackers.
The recipe comes from 101 cookbooks, and as usual it’s a winner. Thin crispy crackers that are perfect for slathering whatever topping you can dream up for them. I went fairly simple and made two versions, one with basil and sea salt and another with rosemary and cracked pepper. I went the rustic route and baked them into large sheets and broke them into pieces by hand but you can cut them into any shape you’d like. If you can’t find semolina flour you could use whole wheat or a combination of your favorite flours instead. I am thinking about trying a sweet version with whole wheat, honey and hazelnut meal next time. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Olive Oil crackers
makes 12 large crackers
1 ½ cups semolina flour
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 egg mixed with one teaspoon water
toppings of your choice (rosemary, parmesan cheese, poppy seeds, basil, black pepper)
Whisk together the flours and salt. Add the water and olive oil. Using a mixer with a dough hook attachment mix the dough at medium speed for about -7 minutes. The dough should be just a bit tacky. If you need to add a bit more water or flour, do so.
When you are done mixing, shape the dough into a large ball. Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces. Gently rub each piece with a bit of olive oil, shape into a small ball and place on a plate. Cover with a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 – 60 minutes.
While the dough is resting, pre-heat the oven to 450F degrees. Insert a pizza stone into the oven if you have one.
When the dough is done resting, flatten one dough ball. Using a rolling pin or a pasta machine, shape into a flat strip of dough. Pull the dough out a bit thinner by hand (the way you might pull pizza dough). You can also cut the dough into whatever shape you like at this point. Set dough on a floured (or cornmeal dusted) baking sheet, poke each cracker with the tines of a fork to prevent puffing. Brush the crackers with the egg wash, add any extra toppings, and slide into the oven (onto the pizza stone). Repeat the process for the remaining dough balls, baking in small batches. If you don't have a pizza stone, bake crackers a few at a time on baking sheets. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until deeply golden, and let cool before eating.