Small, grain-based snacks are a minefield of confusion.
Take your average biscuit.
To those of us in the US, this conjures up images of fluffy white mounds of bread- or scone-like baked goods, made with leavening of some kind and usually with significant vertical relief. Flaky is generally a positive. These often come smothered in gravy of some kind, or piled high with strawberries and whipped cream. Butter, jelly, honey, all can be applied to great effect.
The British biscuit, or biccie [British person says this should be bickie], as it is endearingly referred to, is closer to what we call a cracker in its savory form, but also often resembles what may be called a cookie when sweet. Its defining attributes are that it is flat, and usually has some bit of crunch to it, separating it from other flat, sweet and generally softer cookie-type edibles.
I skittered down this rabbit hole via a short but intense fling with crackers over the last week, brought on by the presence of both hummus and flavored cream cheese: feta, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers. Love.
I required some vehicle to transfer to the mouth. Something sturdy, with a bit of a bite, but not so intense that it overpowers. Something portable, for packed lunches. Something tasty.
You'd be surprised at how few cracker recipes I came across delving into my cookbooks. Or maybe not. Buying crackers is ordinary, not may people have the time or interest to make them, probably.
Making them yourself accomplishes a lot of good things, though.
It lets you decide exactly what goes into them.
Want to use healthy grains?
Want lots of spice? Want no spice?
They're really not that hard to make, and they don't take a lot of time.
Plus, as with many things, they're much tastier when you make them yourself.
These biscuits are from Gary Rhodes' The Complete Rhodes Around Britian, an interesting mix of classic British dishes and new interpretations. Despite the fact that his haircut makes him look like Sonic the Hedgehog, don't let that fool you - this is good stuff.
I use a mix of low gluten and gluten-free flours, add some (lots o') ground black pepper for a warm and spicy finish, and scattered on pumpkin seeds for color. Substitute any or all of the grains, depending on what you have and what you need. Gluten-free? Ditch the barley. Doesn't matter? Use white or whole wheat. Instead of pumpkin, use sesame, poppy seed or parmesan cheese. If using cheese, sprinkle it on individual biscuits after you put them on baking sheets. These are fairly tender as far as crackers go - no plywood planks here. They may crumble a little if you smear toppings on with too much enthusiasm. They'll still taste great, though.
Measurements are converted to grams in my version, but I included cups from the original recipe. Gently fluff the flours with a fork before scooping into a measuring cup. This is not necessary when using a scale.
Black Pepper, Oat and Pumpkin Seed Barley Biscuits/Crackers.
Makes 24, 2-inch crackers.
100 grams unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
110 g barley flour (3/4 cup), plus more for rolling
40 g potato starch (1/4 cup)
35 g brown rice flour (1/4 cup)
50 g quick-cooking oatmeal (2/3 cup)
25 g old-fashioned rolled oats (1/3 cup)
5 g ground pepper (1 teaspoon)
75 g whole milk (5 tablespoons), plus a little extra
5 g salt (1 stingy teaspoon)
All ingredients should be a room temperature, and the butter should be very soft.
You will need 2 baking sheets and baking paper, a large bowl for mixing, a rolling pin, and a spatula.
Turn the oven on to 400 degrees F.
Stir the butter and flours together in a large bowl until the mixture is crumbly. Add the oats and pepper and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the milk and salt until combined.
Add the liquid to the flour and oat mixture and stir until completely combined.
The dough will be very wet. Leave to rest for 15 minutes so the moisture can be absorbed by the oats.
After 15 minutes of resting, the dough will still be soft but will be just a little tacky. Turn it out onto a very well-floured surface and generously flour the top of the dough. Roll out the dough until it is fairly thin - about 2 mm. Turn the dough 1/4 turn the first few times you roll it out and add more flour if it starts to stick to the counter or rolling pin.
Cut the dough into 2 inch squares with a knife. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, brush off as much of the flour from the top as possible. Using a paper towel or a pastry brush, gently brush some milk over the top surface of the dough, just to moisten it. Scatter the seeds over the top and gently press them into the dough.
Using a spatula, transfer each square to a baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart. You may not be able to use your fingers because the dough is soft and can stick a little. A thin, flexible spatula will help tremendously.
There wil be scraps left over - you can re-roll them or just bake them as-is for interestingly shaped nibbles.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes*, until completely dry and browning on the edges.
Let the biscuits cool on the baking sheet until completely cold.
Best eaten on the first day, but keep for 4-5 days stored in an airtight container.
*Note that baking time is highly dependent on how thick or thin you roll out your dough and the size you cut it. Small thin scraps will be done in 10 to 12 minutes, whereas larger, thick squares will take 20 minutes or more.
Check early, check often.