If you jumped on the sourdough bandwagon last spring by making your own starter from scratch, chances are you’ve already experimented with “discard” recipes like crackers. When you take weeks to build a starter from just flour and water, you end up with a lot weak starter that many instructions advise you to throw out—and in my opinion, it’s the only time you should. Since my sourdough adventures started with a dormant gifted starter, I don’t toss starter, never clamored for discard recipes, and began baking bread long before I fell for sourdough crackers.
I started baking sourdough crackers for one reason: George loves Goldfish crackers. He’ll plow through a box of the cheesy bites in a sitting, so of course my thought was, “How can I make these—and make them better?” This led me to develop a master recipe whose techniques I now use for a variety of crackers: cheese, wheat, herb, rye, and more.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need sourdough starter (weak or fully active) plus some baking staples.
1. Mix the dough and let it chill.
2. Roll out and cut it into crackers.
3. Bake and enjoy.
Adaptable Sourdough Crackers
240 grams Sourdough Starter (100% hydration)
50 grams softened butter, olive oil, or a blend
70 grams whole-wheat flour
70 grams all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons spices or dried herbs (optional; see below)
6 grams (2 teaspoons) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
In a large bowl, use a fork to mix the starter and fat until smooth. In a small bowl, mix the flours, spices or herbs, and salt; use the fork to stir them into the butter blend, and then use your hands to mix the dough until the flours are blended in completely.
Wrap the dough in parchment paper and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer. Feed your starter.
Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before working. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into quarters and pat each into a rectangular shape. Roll out one rectangle until it is 1/16 inch thick, or as thinly as possible. Sprinkle with salt; roll one more time to press the salt into the dough’s surface. Using a pizza wheel or biscuit cutter, cut the dough into your desired shape. Poke a chopstick or fork in the center of each cracker if you want to reduce puffing. Transfer the crackers to a ungreased baking sheet, and repeat the cutting and shaping with the remaining dough.
Bake on the middle oven rack for 350°F for 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, and then carefully set the pan under the broiler for an additional 1–2 minutes, until the crackers are golden on both sides. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before storing in an airtight container for up to a week. Makes 1 batch.
Tips & Tricks
- Batch size is hard to pin down because the count depends on the size and shapes you cut. I prefer 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inch squares for snack crackers, larger rectangles for dipping, and 3-inch rounds (cut out with a biscuit cutter or wide-mouth Mason jar) to hold toppings.
- I advocate using a scale and metric measurements when baking with sourdough; you can find my preferred scale here. But crackers are more forgiving than other sourdough treats. If you haven’t yet acquired a scale, you can use 1 cup starter, 1 cup combined flours, and 1/4 cup butter and/or oil.
- Crispness can be hard to judge until the crackers have cooled. If yours are chewy—or your container wasn’t airtight and they soften the next day—pop them back in a 350°F oven for about 5 minutes.
- As I mentioned earlier, cheesy crackers are our favorites, but there are many options (see below).
Twice as Tasty
Although I use my Adaptable Sourdough Crackers master recipe for most of my crackers, I always add something extra. The recipe already indicates you can vary the flavors, fats, and flours. I typically reach for butter and a 1:1 blend of whole-wheat and white flours, but I sometimes use a 1:1 butter-and-oil blend, all whole-wheat flour, or a 1:3 rye-and-white blend. I tend to go light on chili powders and cap ground spices at 1-1/2 teaspoons, but I’ve added up to 2 tablespoons of dried herbs and been happy with the results.
Cracker dough has more flexibility than many other baked goods. As I’ll explore later this month, some recipes require you to cut back on the original liquids, fats, or flours if you want to add other ingredients. But I’ve found crackers soak up the extra fat in fresh cheese, the dryness of cheese powder, and the gooeyness of roasted garlic without reductions from the original recipe. So once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, play around to find your favorite flavor combos. Here are some of mine:
- Herb crackers. Up the herbs to a mix of 2 tablespoons dried or 1/3 cup fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage or other herb blend.
- Zesty crackers. Mix in 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest; sprinkle more on top and roll it in with the salt, or replace the finishing salt with a lemon salt or citrus seasoning.
- Seed crackers. Mix in 1/2 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and/or ground flax seeds. For large crackers, try crushed roasted pumpkin seeds.
- Roasted garlic crackers. Mash in several cloves of Roasted Garlic, along with some rosemary and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the crackers just before baking.
- Honey crackers. Add a touch of sweetness with 10 grams (1-1/2 teaspoons) honey along with your choice of herbs or seeds.
- Parmesan crackers. Stir 70 grams (about 3/4 cup) grated Parmesan cheese into the starter and butter or butter–olive oil blend. After rolling out the dough, sprinkle another 20 grams (about 1/4 cup) cheese over the crackers and roll it into the dough instead of a finishing salt.
- Cheesy crackers. Mix 90 grams (about 1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese into the starter and butter. If desired, blend 3/4 teaspoon paprika and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder into the flours. For a stinky-cheese variation, try crumbled blue cheese instead of cheddar and garlic powder instead of paprika.
- George’s favorite ultracheesy crackers. Mix 90 grams (about 1 cup) shredded extra-sharp, home-smoked cheddar and 1/4 teaspoon Home-Smoked Chili Paste or Fermented Red Hot Sauce (from my new cookbook) into the starter and butter plus 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika and 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder when adding the flours. Work 120 grams (about 3/4 cup) powdered whey leftover from making cheese into the dough before refrigerating. (To make whey powder, cook down Whey Sauce until it becomes a thick sauce or paste and then spread it on dehydrator sheets and dry it at 135°F for several hours, or keep cooking the whey sauce, stirring often, until it seizes and then spread it on parchment paper until dry enough to be ground in a food processor.)
Like what you’ve learned but don’t have a sourdough starter? Now’s your chance! The 4th Annual Sourdough Giveaway runs through January 31, 2021. Learn how to get your free sourdough starter here.