Feb 4, 2011


Crackers & Ciabatta

I'm having my first dinner party in our new place tomorrow, and I decided to make the cheese ravioli with homemade ricotta that Kate and I made when I was in LA a couple weeks ago. That day I had purchased some thin garlic crackers which we used to inhale the ricotta we didn't use for the ravioli, and the combination was so good I knew I wanted to serve it as an appetizer. However, I didn't know that I'd be able to find the same crackers here, and, you know, I'm a little touched, so what the hell, I decided to make my own.

A google search quickly led me to a recipe for Olive Oil Crackers at 101 Cookbooks, which is a blog I love. I've made several of Heidi's recipes and they've never failed me. This one didn't either. I used AP flour instead of whole wheat, and replaced the olive oil with a garlic infused grapeseed oil. YUM. I made a test batch a couple days ago and pretty much ate them as fast as they cooled.

I rolled the dough to 5 on my pasta machine (instead of 4) and found that when divided into 12 pieces the sheets were kind of long and sort of pain to work with. So this time around, I divided it into 36 pieces (and yes, because I'm a geek, I weighed the dough and figured out that each one was just about 20oz). Each piece rolled out to a manageable size, and from there I cut them in half with my pizza cutter and sprinkled them with a little kosher salt. I baked 3 at a time, at 450, for 6 minutes on my pizza stone.

You really, really, really need to wait for them to cool completely before eating them to get that awesome crunchy goodness. They are good by themselves, with ricotta, and they go great with other soft cheeses like Brie, or a triple cream.

Now...while I was busy rolling dough balls into crackers, my ciabatta dough was tripling in size. This recipe is by far the easiest one I've ever made because, well, it's kind of a food hack. There's no folding or turning, or any such thing, just beat the hell out of the dough, let it rise twice, flip it over, toss it in the oven. The only tip you really need when working with dough this hydrated is this: WET YOUR HANDS. Don't over flour. I did that the first time and wound up with great tasting bread with a burnt flour crust. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't awesome either. Now I don't flour at all. I oil the hell out of the bowl, oil the parchment paper I pour it out on, and only touch it with wet hands.

You know what else you can make with this dough? AWESOME PIZZA. I usually pull about a third of it right after mixing and toss it in the fridge. Then I bake two loaves of bread, and when I get around to it, pull that last piece into a roundish shape, pile on pizza goodness, and bake. I don't really worry about the triple in size part for the pizza, even in the fridge the dough will rise, and it's usually in there a couple hours at least before I get back to it. Of course, it's perfectly fine to leave it there overnight too.
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