In our quest to transform our kitchen into a gluten-free one, one of our very first stops was Peter Reinhart & Denene Wallace’s book The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking. Reinhart, as he so honestly shares in the book, has made a career out of the delights of traditional bread-making and all that entails (killer cinnamon buns, anyone?!), making his transformation into a gluten-free baker all the more interesting.
The book, for me, is hit and miss, although I cannot claim to have exhaustively baked everything in it. On the plus side, for our family anyway, is the heavy focus on nut ‘flours’ (which thankfully we can have), and some truly delicious flavour combinations. However, I don’t care how gorgeous tasting a muffin is if it falls apart before I can lift it out of the pan. And muffins that require turning around halfway through an extended 40-minute baking time? That just boggles the mind. Surely, baking any muffin for that long will render it as solid as a brick. On the other hand, I clearly didn’t follow directions or else my muffins would not have disintegrated in my hands…
The crackers that my husband made from page 98, however, were a revelation. Not that our boys would touch them, thank you very much, but I’ve never restricted my baking or cooking to things that the entire family must enjoy. Spoken like a mother who has tried to feed at least one fussy child with a spectacular lack of success, right? I’m well aware of my shortcomings and have moved on; sometimes, I cook or bake purely for the grown-ups, or a special guest, or myself, or – quite frequently – the kids. Often enough we end up with dishes that everyone will enjoy, but now I’m rambling…
Back to the Sesame Seed and Mozzarella Crackers though. When my husband made these, I quickly stacked them in tidy columns in clean jam jars, figuring I’d have a nice photo op and a good way to store them for many meals to come. They just didn’t last that long though, being much too nice. The sesame flour is what seems to make these just a little too exotic tasting for either of our sons, but spot-on and full of flavour for us grown-ups. These came along when we were still squarely in the midst of soup and stew weather, and they were paired with cheese and chutney quite successfully too…I’m wondering if my husband has noticed yet that I’m really trying to telegraph that we need more of these, now!
Sesame Seed and Mozzarella Crackers, from The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking
1 1/2 cups sesame seed flour (we ground our own from seeds on hand)
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup shredded or grated mozzarella (or any good melting cheese)
Egg wash – 1 egg, 2 tbs water
Position 2 racks in the centre of the oven. Preheat oven to 300 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, then lightly mist with spray oil.
In a medium bowl, combine the sesame seed flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, onion powder, and black pepper and whisk until well mixed. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the flour mixture and cheese and stir with a spoon until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. The dough will be stiff. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and form the dough into a ball; if it’s too dry to form a ball, stir in a bit of water, 1 teaspoon at a time, just until the dough comes together and all of the loose flour is incorporated to make a stuff, playdough-like dough.
Mist 2 pieces of parchment paper or silicone mats with spray oil. Place the dough between the oiled surfaces, then use a rolling pin to roll and flatten the dough until slightly thinner than 1/4 inch.
Put a bit of vegetable oil in a saucer or a small, shallow dish. Dip a 2-inch round biscuit cutter into the oil to coat the cutting edge. Gently peel back the top piece of parchment or silicone mat and cut the crackers.
Peel the cut pieces off the parchment with either your hands or a small metal spatula and transfer them to the prepared pans. They won’t spread, so you can position them quite close to each other, nearly touching. Gather any scraps, roll them out, and cut more crackers until all of the dough has been used.
Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans and switch racks and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crackers are golden brown and crisp. Thicker crackers may require longer baking. Immediately transfer the crackers to a wire rack to cool completely. They will get crisper as they cool.
Texture isn’t everything
In our quest to find the best gluten-free baking out there, I’ve discovered, like so many others before me, that the texture of ‘gluten-free’ doughs is inherently strange. But a batter or dough that’s odd, sticky and fights back, can still turn into something miraculous. Recently we’ve found the very best recipes for gluten-free waffles and chocolate chip cookies, and these observations on pre-baked texture hold true, while making absolutely no difference to the final, truly delicious baked good. You can be sure I’ll be sharing those soon. If you have a favourite GF-baked good recipe, please don’t hold back!