Sea Salt White Pepper Crackers 海鹽白胡椒脆餅
By Ellen L.Published: 2015-01-02
It must be one of the ironies of modern life that we have everything at our fingertips and yet...we seem to miss out sometimes on just as much as we gain. The reason I've been contemplating such dreary thoughts is that I realized recently (gulp...hangs head in shame) that I have never ever in my life eaten homemade crackers or even thought of making my own crackers! I have always eaten the delicious (well sometimes delicious usually just kinda stale) boxed crackers that one finds in plentiful supply at the grocery shops. But it never ever occurred to me to make them myself, I guess because I somehow thought that one needed a special machine to make edibles so thin and perfectly shaped. Well it turns out that I was completely wrong! You don't need a machine or special skills. It turns out that not only are crackers dead easy to make but these homemade Sea Salt White Pepper Crackers 海鹽白胡椒脆餅 are so much more amazingly delicioso than the crackers that you buy at the store! Seriously now...I'm kinda mad no one ever told me about homemade crackers!
To be honest my expectations were not that high as I started. I thought, well, what the heck, try it and we can eat ugly yet tasty crackers. So I started my cracker adventure early one weekend morning when the family was still asleep and, what do you know, by the time my little girl woke up and came looking for me the lovely (and very squarish!) crackers were already baking away in the oven. And gorgeously tasty these Sea Salt White Pepper Crackers were, buttery and rich with a nice touch of chinese white pepper to liven it up as well as the many layered flavors of sea salt. And, if I may say so, surprisingly not bad looking at all! (Pats self on sore shoulder.)
And here's a big part of the secret to success, a gadget that I have only recently started using and am still confounded that I discovered so late. Where has this been all my life!! The silicone mat is so amaaazzzing! I only got one on sale just cuz it was really cheap. And then at first I didn't know what the heck to do with it. And now?! And now I can't be without it! First of all it increases my working space which is a real blessing in these teensy tiny houses we live in in Hong Kong. I just plonk the mat done on my dining table and, presto!, and extra kitchen counter to work on. (We've made Five Nuts Mooncake and Homemade Egg Pasta this way!) Second, if you work with any kind of dough this simple silicon mat will stop your dough from sticking to the work surface. Just lightly flour your mat and you're off!. And not a thing will stick! Fabulous! And finally when you're done making, all you have to do is just grab the silicon mat with all your leftover flour, dough bits etc. on it and dump into the sink for a quick easy wash up. I just love it!
Since the cracker is a simple thing I decided to complement it with strong but still subtle spicing. So the salt became guerande sea salt (also known as fleur de sel, flower of salt, a delightful name, no?) which is really wonderful for the many layers of flavors it offers. And for the pepper I chose to add Chinese white pepper which I love for its distinct and warm spiciness, softer and more exotic in taste than its close cousin, black pepper.
Then there's the only technical tip to this easy to make Sea Salt White Pepper Cracker dough which is to roll it out really, really thin. Which you can do really well using the silicone sheet cuz you don't have to worry about sticking! The thinner you can roll it out, the more delicate and truly cracker like your final cracker will be. Roll it until you can just see the colors of your working surface through the dough. Make sure you remember to poke holes in each cracker so that they will bake nice and flat.
The flavor of these crackers is subtle, as a proper cracker's flavor should be, and the texture crunchy on the outside and softer and a bit buttery on the inside. Once you eat one of these crackers, the subtly rich taste will creep up on you until before you know you've already eaten a handful of these little suckers! I was looking forward to having a cute little box of homemade crackers to enjoy for a few days but these Sea Salt White Pepper Crackers were gone within an hour. Hey, I was saving these crackers to go with our Homemade Chinese Style Liver Pate! Oh well, back to the kitchen now to whip up a double batch of these delicioso homemade crackers!
Happy New Year from all of us at The Hong Kong Cookery!
|Our homemade cracker smeared with a bit of our Chinese style liver pate|
Salt and White Pepper Crackers Recipe 海鹽白胡椒脆餅
(adapted from smittenkitchen recipe here)
(makes approx 12 dozen small crackers)
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (155 g)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
4 tbsp butter (55g)
1/4 cup cold water
Preheat oven to 400 F, 204 C.
Cut cold butter to small pieces. Combine flour, sugar, salt, white pepper, paprika with butter until like rough sand. (I chopped at the mixture with a butter knife and then just used my fingers to mash and mix.) Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir until the mixture becomes a ball. Knead a few times. Should not stick to the bowl. Add flour in 1 tbsp increments as needed. (I just added 1 extra tbsp.)
Roll out on a well floured surface or a floured silicone mat until thin enough to almost see through (around 1/16"). Flour your rolling pin and the surface below the dough while rolling to make sure the dough doesn't stick. The thinner you roll, the thinner and more "cracker" like your cracker will come out. Use a straight thin implement (I just used the edge of my dough cutter) to carefully cut out your squares to your preferred size. (I cut 1 1/4" squares for small crackers.) Don't use a slicing or dragging movement to mark your lines, this will cause the dough to hitch up. Just press down, lift, move on, and repeat. Sprinkle extra salt and white pepper* lightly over the dough.
Use a sharp implement to poke holes in each square. (I used the head of my darning needle, around 6 holes per cracker.) Lift each cracker carefully and place with 1/2" space between on parchment covered baking sheet. I used the edge of my dough cutter to lift and place the dough. Bake for 7 minutes or until the cracker is browning on the edges. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in air tight container if you can stop them disappearing as soon as they come out of the oven!
*Tip: You can also add extra toppings like poppy seeds and sesame seeds for more pizzazz!
More Doughy Delights at The Hong Kong Cookery:
How to Fold a Chinese Dumpling
Homemade Egg Pasta 自製雞蛋麵