Crunch Time

by Kate Payne
photography by Jo Ann Santangelo

I always tote gluten-free crackers to events, potlucks and restaurants to ensure I don’t miss out on whatever spreadable goodness or “dippable” dishes might be coming my way. Yet, despite their centrality in my gluten-free lifestyle, homemade crackers were a late addition to my pantry staples because my initial attempts produced less than savory results. After a couple of crumbly disasters, it became apparent that since decent, wheat-free crackers were easier for me to buy than to make, I wouldn’t invest any more time developing my own.

An impending kitchen book tour inspired me to try again, though, since I eat a lot of crackers dipped in various on-the-go spreads while on the road. Upon closer look, I realized that crackers are essentially bread that’s rolled out very thin and not invited to rise—think flatbreads such as matzo or papadum, which are our snack crackers’ not-so-distant relations. Since bread is a mainstay in my gluten-free skill set, the task of crackers seemed a little less daunting right away.

Because my gluten-free recipes are usually modified from a gluten-full base, I approached cracker recipes as I would a bread recipe and, voila! I made crackers that I really liked and that didn’t fall apart even when dipped. I like the flexibility of this recipe, which can be modified if buckwheat isn’t a personal favorite. Try substituting almond meal or millet flour for the buckwheat flour to explore other flavor bases.

The recipe for nut and cheese crackers, on the other hand, has remained a staple snack food for trips over the years ever since a friend shared the recipe for sunflower seed and sharp cheddar crackers she found in an old book. I’ve since made this recipe with all different nuts and seeds and a variety of cheeses. Cashews are my favorite, but feel free to explore the many options offered in the bulk section of the grocery store (or shake down a local pecan tree). The salty nature of pecorino Romano gives these a perfectly seasoned finish, but if using other, less-salty cheeses, add ½ teaspoon of sea salt to the combined meal.