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Crackers
If you are curious about where we are at this stage of our sheltering, I will tell you this: we made crackers here last weekend. For most folks, that would be a marker that we’re pretty deep into this thing. They would, I’d guess, work through a pretty long list of possible baking projects before arriving at crackermaking.

My list is different, though. Crackers, to me, are in the top row of necessary food items. Even crackers that don’t crack, like the Ritz or the Keebler Club, make the grade. I would be lying, however, if I said I fully respect a “cracker” that does not crack. Ritzes don’t even “crunch” when you bite; it’s more like a “crunge.” There is such a thing as too much crack, of course. Ry-Krisps, though they have a lot to recommend them, require a bit more force than I am comfortable with. You could pop a crown off on a stale one.

That said, I don’t really want to single out any cracker for criticism. I admire them too much as a food genus to do that. I will admit here and now that I am a cracker addict. I could eat them three meals a day…or five. They are the staff of life in a lightweight, bite-size form. Sure, you can put salami on them or the schmear of your choice, from hummus to triple cream brie, but for me the cracker is the thing.

Crackermaking, then, was actually pretty high on my pandemic baking agenda. Taste is important, of course, but mostly I am looking for the perfect “crack.” Not just a crunch (though crunchiness is a worthy texture), but crackfulness, in both the sound and the tooth. Think Wheat Thins or ak-maks. The sequence of ingestion should go like this: crack, crackle, crunch, crunch, chew.

That ideal is, as I have discovered, a deceptively simple goal. My first batch (using almond flour and a topping of Parmesan cheese) was, best case, a valuable learning experience. I baked them — according to the recipe — for 9 minutes or until they were light brown at the edges. That amount of time proved to be insufficient. (Thanks in part to my addiction, however, it took me eight crackers to be sure.)

For starters, they had nothing like the crack I was looking for. Instead, I got more of a “croonge” — not even as good as the Ritzy “crunge.” Also, they were a bit mealy for my taste. In fact, the “croonge” actually made me cringe. So I put the remaining crackers back in the oven for another 6 minutes at a higher temperature. I might burn them to a crisp, I thought, but at least they’d be crispy.

I can report that the tactic at least partially succeeded. As we all know, most foods taste better when some part of the dish is a little burned. The edges on the new versions were no longer light brown, but rather a rich (and tasty) burnt sienna. The bite improved as well. I don’t think I have ever eaten a cracker that went “craunch,” but I found it to be a pleasent texture.

But not fully satisfying. Simply put, there was no crack. A crunk or two, maybe, but I was still well short of my ideal cracker. I will say, however, that the rest of the crackers did disappear pretty quickly. Not Wheat Thin quick, but none of them got anywhere near staleness.

As I say, this was a learning experience. I have now resolved that, going forward, I will set aside the almond flour and even the Parmesan and try for a more direct route to my ideal. My new plan: it’s got to be whole wheat flour, simple no-nonsense ingredients, err on the side of over-baking, and eat all of your mistakes.

But never forget the mission: crack, crackle, crunch, crunch, chew.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon