More Cooking with Kids: Crackers

By Ellen S. Gibson

child kneading doughI like to cook, and I like to know what’s in my food, so I end up making most of what I eat. I hadn’t ever considered making crackers until my sister-in-law brought them for lunch. I couldn’t stop eating them, they were so good. The recipe is from the Lewiston Sun Journal. The paper published a series of recipes after 2008 when we were in a financial crisis. Here’s the message we keep learning: cooking and eating together provide solace in tough times.

Homemade crackers are simple, delicious, and fun to make with kids. The dough is similar to piecrust, though it isn’t hard to handle. If it tears or gets a hole in it while rolling it out, just stick on a patch and keep going.

You can increase the protein in the recipe by adding 1 cup walnuts to the oatmeal and grinding it all up. Add three tablespoons of poppy seeds for sweeter crackers. Three tablespoons of sesame seeds will make them more savory. One-half cup of sunflower seeds is a nice touch. I mix any additions right into the dough. Otherwise, the seeds fall off when you’re eating the finished crackers and that’s a mess and a waste.

Don’t try to multitask

Be forewarned. Depending on how many kids are helping, you’ll have at least two pans going at once. Between checking the crackers as they cook, removing the ones on the edge that cook faster, keeping fingers from being burned, getting the next pan ready, and checking the pan in the oven again, there isn’t a moment to check your phone.

This recipe makes a lot of crackers. Put aside a couple of hours from start to finish.

Homemade crackers

Grind 3 cups of rolled oats (not the instant kind) in the bowl of a food processor. If no one is allergic, grinding up 1 cup of walnuts with the oats adds a lot of flavor. Pour this out into a big bowl and add 2 cups of unbleached white flour, 1 cup of wheat germ, 4-6 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1½ teaspoon of salt.

In a liquid measuring cup, add ¾ cup oil and 1 cup water. Beat together with a fork to combine. Pour this emulsion into the dry ingredients and stir to make a soft dough. It should hold together. If the dough is too dry, add a little water until it forms a ball. If it’s too wet, add a little flour until it’s not so sticky. The dough is very forgiving.

Rolling them out

Sprinkle flour on an ungreased cookie sheet. Roll out the dough, a handful at a time, right on the cookie sheet, with a short, stout drinking glass that has straight sides. (A rolling pin is too long.) Add more flour to the cookie sheet when you need it. You can roll the dough very thin, but it won’t tear as easily if it’s a little thicker.

This project will keep antsy kids occupied for some time. Let them cut the dough into imaginative sizes and shapes with a pizza cutter. A table knife will work if you don’t have a pizza wheel.

teapot and crackersBake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Check the crackers after 10 minutes. The crackers closest to the edges will cook faster. As they brown, remove them from the pan and cool on a rack. Put the others back into the oven to continue baking. After the initial 10 minutes, check at 5-minute intervals. Thicker crackers in the middle of the pan will take the entire 30 minutes. To be crispy, they have to be brown on the bottom before they are removed from the heat. Cool completely on a rack and then store in an airtight container.

Homemade crackers: loved by kids, adults, and dogs of all ages. Once you start making them, be prepared: everyone will be clamoring for more!