Saturday, March 26, 2011
Gluten-Free Sourdough Crackers
I have been working on cracker experiments for the better part of a year. I was able to get a nice looking product that even tasted fairly well only to have the crispiness turn into tough cardboard a few hours later. The birds feasted in the compost after each experiment.
I feel very sure my commitment to using a sourdough technique as well as only whole grain flours (no starch flours) has made this project more challenging. If I used chemical leaveners like baking soda/powder or thickeners like xanthan/guar gum I probably would have developed an excellent cracker recipe shortly after I started experimenting. But I don't give up easily...and I like a good puzzle.
I needed to use up a bunch of leftover home ground flours left from last baking session and thought I'd try the crackers one more time. I made my starter from leftover potato cooking water and the mish-mash of leftover flours. I had also wanted to work some more with coconut flour in my gluten-free sourdough baking. I got out my coconut flour cookbook and reread about its properties and found its high protein content absorbs more moisture than a low protein flour. I wondered if this would help improve the cardboard-y results.
It worked really well! The coconut allowed the dough to be rolled out very easily and the crackers cooked through! They were crispy right out of the oven and stayed crispy for a few hours. They still got a bit soft over the course of that day, however.
I talked to my friend, and videographer, Peggy, who is experienced in using a dehydrator for various raw foods. She explained the concepts of dehydration to me, warm air blown around by a fan. She suggested I bake the crackers for a period of time at a regular temperature to get most of the moisture out and then use the dehydration concept for a second period of baking. I have a convection setting on my oven and decided to use it at a low setting to take out the rest of the excess moisture to produce really crispy crackers.
Before my next batch I hunted around the internet looking for gluten-free cracker recipes and found a great blogger, Fresh4Five, using ground seeds and nuts in her cracker recipes.
I tried another batch with the addition of a small amount of ground sunflower seeds along with the coconut flour and together these improved the crackers to the next success point! They were a bit more dense, rolled out easily, cooked through, and were really crispy out of the oven. I tested them every few hours and they continued to be crispy! (Because I was the only taste-tester I ate more crackers over the last 2 days than I have in the last 5 years.)
I tried storing them in three different ways, 1. in the open air, 2. in a plastic bag, and 3. in a cloth in a barely covered plastic container, the way I store all my gluten-free sourdough breads. I just taste-tested them and found they are all still crispy but the one in the plastic bag is the best because it is slightly more crispy than the others.
So now I have my work cut out for me: further develop these cracker recipes, using a variety of flours in the gluten-free sourdough starters, figure out the best cooking and convection/dehydration times and temperatures, and...oh, yes...the flavors...so many possibilities of flavors...(recipe to follow when perfected)