Saturday, April 23, 2016

Grain-free Crackers

When people with digestive troubles hear that they should give up wheat, as it could be the cause of their trouble, either due to a possible celiac condition or simply a food intolerance, they inevitably switch to GF (gluten free) flour for their baked goods. Sadly, many times their symptoms actually worsen, as was the case with me. Due to the high starch content of nearly all gluten-free flours, if you suffer from digestive problems, you might want to consider completely removing them from your diet, at least for a while, until you get your symptoms under control. That’s exactly what I have done and I feel so much better!

But this is a drag, to say the least, as your baking options have now shrunk considerably. But it’s not completely impossible to enjoy muffins, breads, and crackers again. Two options are coconut flour and nut flour!

One of the most versatile nut flours available is almond flour. There are 2 types of ground almond products on the market - almond flour, and almond meal. Almond flour is made by taking blanched (skinless) almonds and pulverizing them into a very fine powder. Almond meal is made from whole, ground raw almonds - a heavier product than almond flour. If you’re intending to bake muffins and cakes, the lighter blanched almond flour would be preferable, as it will result in a lighter, fluffier product. But when you’re making crackers, it doesn’t matter much. 

When I started omitting starchy things from my diet (once I regained my appetite!), I started to really miss crackers. I enjoy crunchy things, especially when I have cheese. When I got the cookbook, "Against all Grain" from Danielle Walker, I was excited to see a recipe for crackers. Not just a regular boring old cracker, but a rosemary and raisin cracker - something that sounded like it would go so well with my new favorite cheese: English Coastal Cheddar! 

I have been making these almost weekly for months now, so that I have nearly a steady supply! One batch lasts me about a week. Even if you’re not on a grain-free diet yourself, you could benefit from reducing your reliance on wheat-based products and make these every so often. They are really a lot healthier than wheat crackers or even rice crackers, as wheat disagrees with a lot of people and I do believe that eating too much wheat can lead to an eventual wheat allergy, and rice frankly has no nutrition worth talking about. It’s really just all starch. Why not eat more nuts? Nuts have fat, which makes us feel fuller (as opposed to rice, which is like eating air), plus they have fiber and minerals.

Blanched Almond Flour

These are easy and quick to make - from start to finish, it’ll take you maybe 20 minutes. But do stick around the kitchen while these are baking though because, being nuts, they can burn easily. You can make these with 100% almond flour if you like, or 50% almond flour and 50% almond meal. I’ve tried them both ways and it doesn’t make any significant difference because crackers are not meant to be fluffy. Plus the meal adds a little more fiber if you need more of that in your diet! For a twist, you can substitute some finely grated Parmesan cheese for 1/2 of the flour, omit the raisins and seeds, and replace the rosemary with thyme. That’s pretty tasty, too, especially when topped with a sliced tomato. 

Anyway, on to the recipe.

Rosemary Raisin Crackers

1 cup blanched almond flour
2 Tbsp. raisins
2 Tbsp. cold water
1 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds 
1 sprig rosemary
1-1/2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process for 15 seconds or until thoroughly combined with small bits of speckled raisins throughout.

Form the dough into a ball then roll it out to a rectangular shape, 1/8 “ thick, between 2 sheets of parchment paper.

Remove the top sheet of parchment. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 1 inch wide rectangles. Transfer the parchment paper to a baking sheet. 

Bake 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan once until crackers are golden. Check to see how they are doing - you want golden, not brown.  You may also want to turn the oven temp down if it’s looking like they are browning too quickly. 

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully break the crackers apart. Cool completely before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Danielle Walker from her cookbook, “Against All Grain”.

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