I have not been doing so well with the Daring Bakers’ challenges lately. I started the June challenge on the morning of the day I was leaving for France. Everything went wrong, from the lemon curd having gone missing to the cake rising unevenly and sticking to the barrier. I left the curd, the cake, and the white “chocolate plastique” in the refrigerator and fled to Europe. I did write about the cake, hoping to post the blog from Paris, but that proved impossible and by the time I got back I didn’t feel like posting the sad story anymore: the upshot was that my Mom assembled the cake and it tasted fine, but it did not look much like a checkerboard because the cake batter was yellowish and my flavors were lemon and coconut. C’est la vie.

Today I am finishing the July challenge on August 1st. Mea culpa. It has been a busy month with new things to do. Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers. Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged us to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Original painting shows plate of two kinds of crackers, plus ingredients.

Crackers. 6″x 6″ Watercolor pencil on paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

I have a house guest at present who cannot eat gluten or cow’s milk-based dairy projects. Because the July challenge required us to make two kinds of crackers using two different methods I decided I would try to make gluten and dairy-free crackers for Ann, using the Seedy Crackers as a basic recipe and substituting a garbanzo and fava bean flour from Bob’s Red Mill for the cited wheat flour.

Often when I have tried to make gluten-free baked goods it has been difficult to get them to stick together. Gluten-free cooks buy xanthan gum or gluten-free baking mix to get around this problem, but I use what I have, so I just measured the garbanzo flour cup for cup as I would wheat flour, measured in the poppy and sesame seeds, added the salt. For oil I used a French olive oil that has been infused with hot red pepper. So far so good.

When I added the water, a texture problem appeared: the dough was not crumbly as I had feared — it was wet and sticky. Oops. I covered it with a tea towel and let it sit for fifteen minutes as advised. When it did not firm up, I added another 1/3 cup of garbanzo flour and poured at least half a cup of garbanzo flour onto my cutting board.

I was able to roll and cut the first batch, barely. The dough stuck to the rolling pin. For batches two and three I ended up just patting the dough as thinly as I could before cutting it with a fluted cutter.

The crackers began to smell sweet and I opened the oven. I baked three batches and let them cool. Ann said they smelled really good. Then she tasted one. She really likes them and asked for the recipe (below). I was unhappy that the dough was so wet and that I couldn’t roll them thinly and get them super crisp, but the flavor is fine.

After dispensing with cracker trial number one I went to the all-dairy, all-gluten, all-butter recipe for cheese crackers made in a log and sliced. Because my iconic cracker of addiction is the commercial Cheez-It, I modified the recipe to eliminate walnuts and rosemary, flavoring the crackers with cheddar cheese, Pecorino Romano, paprika and a little nutmeg instead. I shaped them into logs and rolled them up in wax paper to chill for at least an hour.

We could just call these things “heart-attack-on-a-plate” with their stick of butter and ten ounces of cheese and salt. I did sub in some whole wheat pastry flour, although I used mostly white flour as called for. They are utterly delicious, thin, crispy, buttery and cheesy.

Without further ado, the recipes I used:

Gluten-Free Seed Crackers

Whisk together:

2 and 1/3 cups garbanzo and fava bean flour (gluten-free)

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1/3 cup poppy seeds

1 scant tsp kosher salt

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder.

Stir in 3 Tbsp olive oil*

Add about 3/4 cup water, slowly.

You will want to add the water slowly — in my experience, the dough was too wet, making it hard to roll and cut.

Rest dough for fifteen minutes, covered with a towel. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425.

Flour a board with another half cup of garbanzo flour or more. Take 1/3 of the dough. Either use a rolling pin (it will stick) or flatten the dough with your hands. Cut out with a biscuit cutter. Place on baking sheets and into oven.

The recipe I started from recommends baking them for seven minutes, flipping them over, giving them seven minutes more and then an extra five minutes. I did not do that. I did turn them and checked occasionally to see if they were done, mostly by the smell.

* I used an olive oil from France that has been infused with red peppers, but you can use any you like.

Fully-Leaded Cheese Crackers (All the butter, cheese and salt)

Soften 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)

Grate 8 ounces of good quality Cheddar cheese, plus an ounce of Pecorino Romano

Combine butter and cheese in a bowl (I used my hands).

Add 1 cup unbleached flour, 3 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour, 1 scant tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp paprika and grated fresh nutmeg to taste.

Knead to combine and form into logs. Wrap logs in waxed paper and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325.

Slice logs thinly and place slices on baking sheets (there is so much fat in here that I did not bother to grease them). Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes.

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