February’s cookbook club book was Plenty*. I have several friends who adore this book and I looked forward to exploring it and perhaps expanding my kitchen toolkit to include more Middle Eastern flavors and techniques. As it turned out, however, this was not the right book for me. Plenty is chock full of delicious recipes, and those recipes are chock full of somewhat precise and complicated techniques along with not-so familiar (to me) ingredients. What it is not chock full of, however, is unifying theory or process explanations which would lead me into the recipes themselves. For something I’m not already familiar with, I definitely prefer more prose about why and how to do things, what’s integral and what can be simplified, etc. To expand my Middle Eastern influenced toolkit, I’m going to need a different book.**
The recipe I choose to make, Saffron Tagliatelle with Spiced Butter, was beautiful and delicious, but also gave me hours of grief when my dough was too wet and my pasta roller clearly did not have the same capacity for which the recipe was written. I’m glad I tried it. When I make pasta again, however, I’ll follow some combination of Alice Water’s advice, my brilliant spouse’s advice, and this article on Serious Eats (which seems to agree, on the whole, with my spouse and Alice Waters) and I’ll leave Plenty on the shelf.
Then, after spending way too much time muttering under my breath about complicated recipes being barriers to home cooks, I decided to make something simple. And I did! And it was delicious! And I realized that while it was simple to me, recipes that start with a cup of sourdough starter and involve rolling dough thin enough for crackers, aren’t necessarily simple to others. I may have some work to do on walking my talk. Nevertheless, if you happen to have some sourdough starter and a silicon baking mat or two, these are great!***
Simple Sourdough Crackers
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or ghee or lard or coconut oil or …), plus more for brushing
- 1 cup (or more) whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- coarse salt for sprinkling
Mix starter, oil, flour, and salt together, adding more flour until a relatively stuff dough forms. Knead lightly (for a minute or two) in the bowl, then cover with plastic wrap and let rest for ~8 hours (up to 24 is probably fine).
Preheat oven to 350º.
Divide dough into two halves*** and shape each roughly into a rectangle. Place the rectangle on asilicon baking mat or sheet of parchment and roll thin, covering as much of the mat or parchment as possible while remaining within the confines of what will fit on your baking sheet. (I kept the plastic wrap on top of the dough to keep my rolling pin from sticking without adding more flour.) Repeat with the other half.
Brush the dough with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Using a bench scraper or spatula****, cut the dough into cracker-sized***** rectangles. You don’t need to separate the pieces. The dough will put apart slightly while baking so you have separate crackers in the end.
Bake at 350º, for 15 to 20 minutes, just until golden brown. Open the oven door a crack, but leave the baking sheets in for another 15 or more minutes while the crackers crisp up.
*yes, I am just finishing a write-up of something that happened in February. Sorry.
**maybe it’s Zahav? I haven’t given up.
***I’ll post something more actually simple soon. I promise.
****if you’re using a standard half-sheet pan, aka a regular sized cookie sheet. if your pans are smaller, divide more!
*****don’t use an actual knife or a pastry cutter! It will cut your baking mat and that is sad.
******whatever size cracker you like.