Stir it up
I wanted to make some munchies to take to our weekly happy hour. There's a recipe for "Seedy Crisps" in I'm Just Here for More Food which I'd been looking forward to trying, so I figured I'd give it a go. The recipe says it either makes thin "crispy crackers for snacking" or thicker "hearty crackers for dipping." Unfortunately, what I ended up with was something more like quarter-inch thick pita bread, and I'm stumped as to why.
Now, the major error I know is my own fault. I thought some Osaka Salt from World Merchants would be good. It's a mix of salt, sesame seeds, seaweed, and red pepper flake. Sounds like a nice cracker, right?
Unfortunately, Osaka Salt, as a good cook might guess from the name, is mostly salt, not mostly sesame seeds. So when I added 3 tablespoons of it to a recipe which called for 1.5 teaspoons of salt, things went wrong. Did you know that salt enhances the bitterness of pepper flake? Well, it seems to. So I've got an aggressively salty bitter-hot bread on my hands.
(In fairness, this would be very effective free bar food, in the vein of roasted peanuts or salty popcorn. That is to say, immediately after putting one in your mouth, you want to drink about a quarter-pint of beer.)
On further research, Alton and Shirley agree that salt aids gluten formation, which maybe helps explain the texture. Also, I notice that the cracker recipe in Cookwise specifies that it's a liquid-heavy dough. The Seedy Crisps recipe says to add water "just until the dough comes together," and that you might not use a full cup. I'm thinking I was a little stingy with the water... so does that instruction not mean what I think, or is it poorly phrased?
The recipe also says that the crackers should be "toasty brown", and I like my toast darker than a lot of people. The crackers didn't seem to be browning enough, so I gave them more time. That's probably where the unpleasant burnt sesame taste comes from.
Of course, the most likely reason I've got thick crackers is probably that I just didn't roll the dough out thin enough. I still wonder if I should've docked the dough or something, but it didn't really rise much.
I guess most of this can be chalked up to operator error, but I am curious whether anybody else is having trouble with More Food. The recipes we've tried out of Alton's other two books have all been fine, but this sure went badly, and Alton's "Phase III Biscuit" turns out this weird thing which is very tasty but definitely not a biscuit.
So if you have advice, questions, answers, sympathy, a joke... let me know.