I have tried unsuccessfully to make nicely textured sourdough crackers several times using various recipes I’ve found online, but have never been happy with the results….. ’til now! I belong to a couple online fermenting groups where the subject comes up sometimes (it’s not going to be me asking anymore!) and I have a few friends who I think will be interested so I thought I’d write up the recipe and technique notes. Enjoy!
If you’re like me and just use recipes as general guidelines and you don’t care about all the commentary I put a super simplified version at the bottom of the post.
Supplies you’ll need:
(More an ingredient, but the most important thing: Sourdough starter. If you don’t have one going, start one using any technique you like or ask me about it.)
Measuring cups and spoons
Large mixing bowl (probably the one with your mixer)
KitchenAid with dough hook, mixer for dough, or very strong arms and a wooden spoon
Plastic wrap or cover for dough while it rises
Cutting board or counter surface for working dough
Pasta-machine is a huge plus, or rolling pin
Bench scraper or knife
Brush for egg wash
Cookie sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper
Wire cooling rack
1 cup sourdough starter. This can be fed starter or a relatively eager unfed starter, but unfed sluggish starter straight from the ‘fridge isn’t likely to give you the best results.
1+ cups flour. This can be white or whole-grain or a mix. I have used mostly all-purpose white flour (organic, but that’s up to you of course), with a bit of rye or whole-grain.
1/4 cup oats. This is optional, but I think it’s a great add-in. If you don’t use oats you’ll need more flour.
1/4 cup softened butter.
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (Doesn’t go in right away!)
1/2 teaspoon salt. (Also doesn’t go in right away!) You can use less or more to taste, but this is where I think it’s best. I also recommend an unrefined salt like Redmond Real Salt, the various sea salts, or Himalayan pink salt.
1 egg plus some water for a wash to brush on top. This is optional but will help the salt stick and will make them brown better.
More salt for sprinkling on top. A nice coarse specialty salt is good, or more of the same of your regular salt. Again, optional, but this is how I make them.
More flour for dusting your work surface and working into the dough ball. For this I use whole-grain flour to give them a little more texture. White would be fine too.
I think this is where I was lacking enough info for getting a nice crispy cracker. You might have to fine-tune to get the crackers just how you like them, but this is what I do:
The night before or early in the day (or whatever schedule allows lots of rising time) mix together the sourdough starter, cup (+) of flour, oats, and butter. I use a KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. I’m sure you can mix by hand (if you’re really strong!) or use any other type of processor suitable for dough. Mix ’til it’s a nice stiff dough ball that ‘cleans the sides’ of the bowl. If it’s too wet, add more flour little bits at a time. If it happens to be too dry to incorporate all the flour, add a splash of water ’til it’s right.
Let this sit covered for 8-12 hours or so at room temperature. It won’t rise like regular bread dough, but it will increase in size and when you poke it you should be able to tell that bubbles have developed. It will be stickier now than it was when it was first mixed. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. I have been using whole grain flour for this. Because the dough has become softer and stickier you will be able to incorporate more flour into the dough, and I think the whole grain offers a nice texture and flavor. At the same time start pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees (F). The rack should be in the middle.
Before you start kneading measure out your baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stretch out your dough a bit and sprinkle about half of the salt and soda onto the surface. Fold it over, and sprinkle on the rest. Then fold and knead, working the salt and soda through the dough and incorporating the flour from your surface into the dough as it will take it. If your work surface gets sticky put down more flour as needed. Knead and fold until the ball is not sticky anymore and a it’s a nice solid but stretchy consistency.
Form an even shape and use your bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into four even sections. Keep out two, and return two to your bowl and cover it. This will keep them from drying out while you work with the other two.
Then it’s time to roll out your crackers. This is a CRUCIAL step, as crackers that are too thick will be dense and more like a hard bread. My first few tries I thought I was doing well, but they all ended up too thick and dense. I thought they were awful, but my boss’s dog loved them, so maybe not all is lost if you mess up a batch. Crackers that are too thin won’t have much substance and will not be good for eating with dips or toppings.
I use a pasta roller, which makes the rolling VERY easy and very even. If you don’t have one but have thought about getting one, I recommend that you do consider spending the money! This one was bought for me as a gift, but I happen to know it came from a thrift store, which is a great place to keep an eye out. This is an older Marcato model from Italy with a hand crank that I think dates to the 70’s or so. The new versions look pretty much identical (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) and I’ve seen them new for about $100. That’s a little spendy for a kitchen utensil, but I’ve found mine to be really useful for many things including tortillas and every kind of pasta you can imagine (which can all be made with sourdough). I’ve thought of other uses but I’m too afraid my “creativity” might damage the rollers to try! If you’re hand-rolling the crackers you’ll have to figure out what the right thickness is, but you’ll want to roll them out quite thin — just 1/8-inch or so.
Back to the pasta roller, I squish my quarter-sections and run them thru on the #1 setting.
After the first pass at #1, cut your strips in half with the bench scraper or knife, then you can run these sections thru at #3, then #5. (Don’t try to run dough thru at your desired thickness without working through the other steps up to it — it doesn’t work.) I have decided #5 is the perfect thickness for my crackers, but you might try something else.
Put your rolled strips on a cookie sheet that has a non-stick silicone mat (like in the picture below) or greased parchment paper. The silicone mats are great because you don’t have to mess with grease, they’re reusable, and they don’t curl up like parchment paper does.
I’ve chosen to keep my crackers pretty “rustic” in shape, mostly because it’s easier. If you want to make perfect shapes you can. Use a pizza roller or knife to cut even pieces. You can ball up your trimmings and run them thru the roller again and again ’til it’s all used. Give each shape a poke with a fork in the middle so that you don’t end up making bubbles instead of crackers. I just keep mine like in the picture, and perforate them with a fork so I can break somewhat even shapes after they’re baked.
I’m getting ahead, though… Once your shapes are on the cookie sheet, mix up the egg and a splash of water with a fork. You want a thin consistency. Brush your proto-crackers with just a touch of the egg wash, then sprinkle with the coarse salt or whatever you choose to use. (This includes dried herbs or seeds if you want to get all crazy.)
If you’re keeping yours in large strips like this, use a fork to make perforations. When baked the crackers can be broken along these lines. They also serve to keep large bubbles from forming in your crackers, so if you choose not to perforate you will want to press a few holes into your unbaked strips.
Then into the oven! All ovens are a bit different, but mine turn out best if baked for 10 minutes at 350, then flip them, over, and bake for 3 minutes more. That’s it! They’re done when they’re slightly browned and you can tell they’re crispy and not bendy. Repeat the process with the other two dough lumps in the bowl.
Break along the perforations into cracker shapes, and….. Enjoy! One batch makes between 315-350g of crackers, which is 11-12 ounces.
Mix 1 cup SD starter, 1/4 softened butter, and about a cup of flour.
Let it rise at room temp for 8-12 hours.
Sprinkle dough with 1/4 tsp and 1/2 tsp salt.
Knead on floured surface.
Roll out sections, perforate, egg wash, sprinkle with more salt.
Bake for 10 minutes @ 350F, flip, bake 3 more minutes.