I was thumbing through my Bread Baker's Apprentice the other day and found a bookmark I'd placed on the page with this recipe quite a long while ago. Somehow in all the busy-ness of the last few months, I'd totally forgotten that I'd wanted to make this. So I just stopped everything and threw this together. It really is that easy. Making the dough is a cinch. The only thing that may seem tedious for some is the kneading, but I absolutely love kneading dough, so that was no problem.
There is something so wonderful about taking this shaggy bit of tacky dough and through a process of working it with your hands, feel it slowly become something else entirely. I absolutely love the moment I can feel it turn into that soft, satiny pillow that begins to gently yield under the pressure of my hands. This recipe asks you to knead for 10 minutes, but I felt it needed closer to 15 to get to that point where I could really stretch it to get the windowpane effect (see light through it without breaking).
The rest went so quickly, and it really was fun to apply the seeds and flavorings. I sprinkled on sesame seeds, caraway seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt and a little paprika. Wow. The flavors were so good with the crunch of that crispy cracker; with a glass of wine, it was truly delectable.
There is nothing quite like this cracker bread right out of the oven. You really must see for yourself.
Adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice
1 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 to ½ cup water, at room temperature
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, honey, oil and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full ½ cup water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees. The dough should be satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hands and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper-thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (poppy seeds, cumin seeds, paprika, caraway seeds, kosher salt, etc.) Be careful with spices; a little goes a long way. If you want precut crackers, use a pizza cutter to score the dough before baking (it will break off when cooled). Or omit the scoring and it will break into shards.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).
When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap then apart or snap off shards and serve. You really must let it cool for the required 10 minutes. It gets crispy as it cools.