Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

Do you ever wan­der through the gro­cery store, pick up a pack­age of pre­pared food and think to your­self, “I can make that?”

I’m not talk­ing about some pathetic box of pre-made pan­cakes or a frozen Lean Cui­sine. I’m talk­ing about pantry sta­ples, such as…well, such as crackers!

At my local gro­cery store the cracker selec­tion is, shall we say, min­i­mal­is­tic. There are the saltines, the Ritzes, the Triscuits. Beside them are a host of scary cracker com­bi­na­tions with ingre­di­ent lists that read like a for­eign phone book.  A gal with my taste for a crispy, savory, crack­ery treat is much disappointed.

The offer­ings at places such as Whole Foods are bet­ter. In fact, my favorite store-bought cracker is Dr. Kracker. I’m in love with Dr. Kracker. (Don’t tell my hus­band.) The crack­ers I’m talk­ing about are cellophane-wrapped in bun­dles of about eight crack­ers, heavy on the pump­kin seeds and cheese. I dream about these crack­ers. I will make these crack­ers some­day because, much as I love him, it takes me an hour to get my Kracker fix. See, I live in the coun­try and the near­est Whole Foods is an hour away.

I’m on a quest to make the per­fect cracker. I have read approx­i­mately 50 cracker recipes to under­stand cracker psy­chol­ogy. Yeast or no yeast? Cheese or no cheese? Seeds? Definitely.

Do you like nigella seeds? No, they have noth­ing to do with that beau­ti­ful, buxom bomb­shell on the Food Net­work. I’m talk­ing about the lit­tle triangle-shaped seeds used in Indian cook­ing. What? You don’t have them avail­able at your local Pig­gly Wig­gly? I don’t either. So I buy them from Penzy’s.

Nigella Seeds

This recipe is based on a recipe from Robert Sinskey Vine­yards. These crack­ers com­bine these won­der­ful, black, smokey nigella seeds with poppy seeds. And what’s a cracker with­out cheese, right? Throw some right in.

Cracker mak­ing isn’t nearly as dif­fi­cult as you might think. Set aside a cou­ple of hours. Make your­self a nice glass of cin­na­mon iced tea. Turn on some music or an audio book and work away. Heck, you can even take a leisurely nap while the dough is ris­ing. So give these Pep­pery Cheesy Crack­ers with Nigella and Poppy Seeds a whirl.

Hand-Crafted Pep­pery Cheesy Crack­ers with Nigella and Poppy Seeds

These crack­ers are won­der­ful with a roasted rus­tic tomato soup. They are also hearty enough to pair with an arti­choke dip, baba ganouch or hummus. 

1 cup warm water
1 table­spoon yeast
3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup grated cheese, such as ched­dar, mon­terey jack or com­bi­na­tion
2 tea­spoons nigella seeds
1 tea­spoon poppy seeds
1 tea­spoon sesame seeds
1/4 tea­spoon pep­per
4 table­spoons unsalted but­ter, soft­ened at room temp
olive oil
coarse-grained salt
corn meal

1. Mix warm water and yeast in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Mix flour into a stand mix­ing bowl equipped with a dough hook. Mix in yeast and water com­bi­na­tion at low speed until the dough forms into a shaggy dough.

3. Add cheese, seeds and soft but­ter and pep­per and con­tinue knead­ing until the dough is a fairly cohe­sive, but not tight ball–about 5 minutes.

4. Gather dough into a ball with your hands and place into a large, very lightly oiled bowl. Place the bowl in a warm place and cover with a towel. Because our house is fairly cool in the fall and win­ter, I often use a heat­ing pad set on medium. Let rise for about 90 minutes.

5.  Pre­heat oven to 375 degrees.

6.  Punch dough down. Divide into three work­ing sec­tions. Tak­ing one sec­tion, roll it into a ball. Then, using a rolling pin, roll it out until fairly thin and about 10 — 12″ x 10 — 12″. There is no need to flour the work sur­face. Turn the dough over a cou­ple of times to get an even sheet. Using a knife or dec­o­ra­tive pas­try cut­ter, trim the rolled-out sheet’s edges so you have a rec­tan­gle or square. Cut the rectangle/square into sec­tions about three inches square.  Gen­tly trans­fer the pieces onto a bak­ing sheet dusted lightly with corn meal. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprin­kle with salt.

7.  Bake the crack­ers for 8 to 10 min­utes, flip and bake for another 8 to 10 min­utes. The crack­ers should be golden brown and crisp. If not, cook until they are.

8.  Cool crack­ers on a rack and pro­ceed to work the remain­ing two pieces of dough in the same fashion.

9. Cool com­pletely before stor­ing in an air tight container.

10. Eat.



Fam­ily din­ners have always been an impor­tant part of my life. Fam­ily din­ners with cake, espe­cially, have always been an impor­tant part of my life. And the best din­ners are those fea­tur­ing oat­meal cake with coconut topping.

I remem­ber as a kid my par­ents, broth­ers and I used to head over to my grand­par­ents’ house for Sun­day din­ner after church. All my aunts, uncles and numer­ous cousins would gather to tell out­ra­geous sto­ries, build and fix things (my fam­ily is always build­ing and fix­ing things) while my grand­mother cooked a tra­di­tional South­ern din­ner and my grand­fa­ther escaped to the gar­den to tend his roses.

My grandmother’s din­ners never had fewer than, say, 15 bowls and heap­ing plates on the table—fried chicken, col­lard greens, mashed pota­toes and gravy, oniony cole slaw, lima beans, angel bis­cuits, salty Vir­ginia ham, green beans. And the desserts. Oh, the desserts!

We would eat in shifts because there wasn’t enough room at the table for every­one. After­words, the women (no, never the men) would pitch in and clean the kitchen.

I remem­ber one Sun­day my Aunt Mar­garet had fin­ished up in the kitchen and decided to mop and wax my grandmother’s floor. I watched on, chat­ting, as she put the fin­ish­ing touches and finally man­aged to wax her way into a corner.

Oh no! Here I am in this cor­ner and the floor’s all wet. I guess I’ll just stand here until it’s dry,” she declared.

No! You can just walk out and wax over your foot­steps,” I said, my five-year-old self proud of com­ing up with the solution.

Of course, my Aunt Mar­garet was always the kid­der and had let me come up with the solu­tion. Still, it’s a fond memory—well, that and the cake.

My hus­band loves this cake so much he nearly dances when he real­izes that I have made one. And he keeps saying—over and over again—“Have I men­tioned how much I love this cake?”

Now, if this chocolate-loving gal says that she loves an oat­meal cake, you can take it to the bank that this is a good cake. And it’s one of those amaz­ing cakes that only get bet­ter with time.

So make it now and make some­one happy.

Oat­meal Cake with Coconut Top­ping
1 1/4 cup boil­ing water
1 cup old fash­ioned oats
8 table­spoons (1 stick) but­ter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tea­spoon bak­ing soda
1 tea­spoon cin­na­mon
1 1/3 cups flour
pinch of salt

Pre­heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour boil­ing water over oats and let stand for 15 min­utes. In a mixer, cream together but­ter, white and brown sug­ars. Add eggs. In a sep­a­rate bowl, mix together bak­ing soda, cin­na­mon, flour and salt. Grad­u­ally add the flour mix­ture to the sugar, but­ter and egg mix­ture until well blended. Stir in the oatmeal/water mix­ture until well com­bined. Pour into a 9 x 13″ bak­ing pan. (I use a Pyrex bak­ing pan.) Bake at 350 degrees for 35 min­utes or until a knife inserted into the mid­dle comes out clean. Top with top­ping after the cake cools for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Coconut Top­ping
8 table­spoons (1 stick) but­ter (brought to room tem­per­a­ture)
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh grated coconut
1 tea­spoon vanilla
1/8 to 1/4 cup milk

Blend all the ingre­di­ents together until well mixed. Pour over warm (but not hot) cake and spread evenly.


By the way, if you haven’t voted on a chicken name for The Chicken For­merly Known as Min­nie Ruth, please do so now.  I really don’t want to name this chicken Johnny.


Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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