That line from the late 1980s about how all we really need to know we learned in kindergarten? People thought it was about sharing, playing fair and putting things back where you found them. But mostly, it was about making crackers.
The only skills required to make a good cracker are those you mastered back in K-school: smooshing, cutting, brushing, and sprinkling with glitter -- except that now we use seeds, herbs, spice blends, citrus zest and more.
Making your own crackers is a great way to surprise your guests and personalize what you put on your table. Added bonus: Way cheaper than store-bought.
Crackers also provide a way to use all those gourmet salts you've collected (or been gifted with). Drop a few grains of pink Hawaiian crystals on a cracker dappled with scarlet cranberries, or play with various flavored salts.
The best crackers are the crispiest, which means rolling the dough thin. (The Play-Doh from your old Fun Factory? Too thick.) Most crackers will swell a bit while baking, so roll as thin as directed, then watch carefully as they bake. Don't sweat their variability. The charm of homemade crackers is that they don't look like they marched from a box like little Stepford saltines.
We've tapped three distinctive recipes for holiday parties.
A classic rye cracker topped with caraway seeds and coarse salt provides a perfect platform for smoked fish, a good Cheddar or a salmon dip (we'll give you that recipe, too).
Salty and Sour Berry Crispbread has its roots in a Swedish bakery and combines the tart chewiness of dried cranberries with the earthiness of whole wheat flour. Lemon zest lends more zing. This cracker shines on its own.
For sheer pizazz, make lavash crackers -- platter-sized sheets of dough that provide a blank canvas for your culinary artistry. Sprinkle various seeds and spices in an attractive pattern, bake until the discs are puffed and crisp, then lay whole lavash on the table for your guests to break into and enjoy.
Each cracker can be prepared up to a week ahead if stored in an airtight container in a cool place. If you want to "refresh" them, warm in a 200-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes before serving.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185