Thursday, May 8, 2014

Taming the Wild Yeast: Sourdough Crackers

When my wild yeast sourdough starter was fully established, I decided to make something with it.  I had sourdough crackers in mind because it's a good way to use the discard, the part of the starter you remove to make room when adding it the new flour and water to feed it. Plus the recipe doesn't rely on the yeast for leavening, so you don't have to catch the yeast at their peak to ensure maximum action. 
This was a lazy recipe.  First, I was too lazy to start it.  It seems intimidating because it's a multi-day recipe.  I had intended to start it the first night but then skipped it because I just wanted to go to bed.  I finally summoned enough energy to work on it the next night but immediately refused to follow the recipe properly, using it more as a guideline.  I didn't measure anything, just threw it together until it seemed right. 

But after all the laziness, the whole thing ended up being much simpler than I thought.  It's really not hard at all.  And you don't need a wild yeast starter, I used mine because it was there.  Here's a cracker recipe that doesn't use sourdough starter. and you can have it ready in about 15 minutes. If you are even slightly intrigued, I suggest you try it.  You will find that you are a cracker-making superstar! 


The Pocket Farmer sourdough crackers

This recipe is flexible, the author gives variations for herb crackers (what I made) and cheese crackers.


Day 1 
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 cup flour
  • about 1/4 cup oil (I used vegetable oil because it was a neutral flavor and cheaper than butter, plus easier to use.   You could use butter, coconut oil, etc.)

Day 1+
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • some seasoning 


Day 1
Mix the starter, flour, and melted butter to make a dough. I kneaded mine a bit to get it really cohesive. 

The recipe called for a lot of melted butter (1/3 cup) but I decided to use vegetable oil instead, and a reduced amount.  I didn't measure anything but eyeballed it and mixed the ingredients up and kneaded it a tiny bit to get a cohesive ball.  I put it aside in a covered 4-cup glass measuring cup on the counter to ferment.  I wasn't sure how to cover it, so I used plastic wrap and a large washcloth on top of that.  The recipe said you need to let it sit out for at least 8 hours but the author mentioned she had had occasionally let hers sit for 36 hours.  I left on the longer side, I mixed mine together on Friday or Saturday night (can't really remember!) and finally baked the crackers up on Monday night. I think the longer you let it sit, the more sour it will be.
Fermented dough after several days.  Should have oiled the measuring cup!

Day 1+
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

After you mix up the initial starter + flour + fat and let it ferment, the rest of the rest of the recipe is really easy.  Add salt, seasoning, and baking soda and knead to incorporate, then roll it out.  I added Pampered Chef garlic & herb seasoning, but I wasn't sure how much to add since the recipe didn't specify.  I didn't want it to be overwhelming, so I only used 1/2 teaspoon seasoning. 
Rolled out dough my non-stick baking mat, scored into cracker shapes.
I rolled the dough out right on my baking mat (generic Silpat) rather than doing it on the counter and then transferring them.  If you don't have a baking mat, use parchment paper. 

After rolling it to the right thickness, I added some salt for the tops and lightly roll it one last time to push the salt in.   Then I used a pizza cutter to cut it into shapes.  You could probably use a knife, but I think it would drag through the dough too much. 

And the super neat thing is that you put it in the oven exactly like that with the score marks.  And then as the crackers bake, they separate themselves. Bake for 12-15 minutes.  I went with 15 minutes for the first batch, but they seemed a little too dark, so for the second batch I went with 14 minutes.  Next time I'll go with even a little less, maybe 12-13 minutes.
Baked crackers.  I didn't move them, they separated themselves.
To cool down you'll definitely want to put them on a cooling rack to let the air flow around them rather than a solid surface.  Don't put them in a container until they're fully cooled, otherwise they'll get soggy.  
Finished crackers, cooling down.


Success! The sourdough taste is awesome, it's certainly sour.  I loved it and so did Husband Jeff.  Sonny D took them for his lunch several days in a row and actually ate them.  Yay!

And while everything was fine, they need more seasoning (probably 2 teaspoons depending on the flavor?) and less wheat flour.  I've read you shouldn't use solely whole wheat flour when you bake, but I'm always too lazy to pull out a softer, milder flour.  This recipe really shows why that's important.  Just too wheaty and heavy tasting. 

I actually rolled the dough out too thin because some of the ultra-thin ones are too light.  The thicker crackers have an enjoyable texture, a little more body.  I read reviews for a similar cracker recipe where the person talked about rolling them with bamboo skewers as a thickness guide, so I'll try that next time.

I've promised Sonny D that I'll make him a chocolate version sometime, but I have no idea what to do for that! I can't just add cocoa powder since it'll need some sweetness too.  I thought maybe copying a chocolate graham cracker recipe would be good, so that'll be my inspiration.

I'd also like to make a spicy Cajun cheesy version.  I used to make similar crackers when I was in high school and totally loved them.  It would be fun to also make a black pepper and sesame batch.  Oooh, and of course I'd love to whip up a cinnamon-oatmeal version (with fermented oats, of course!).  And it would be fun to make completely-from-scratch hummus to go with it. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!