Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rye Crackers

...with lox, cream cheese, capers and dill for a St. Patrick's Day appetizer.

I'm not Irish. No, I'm not even close to Irish, not with my ancestry from Austria, Germany and Alsace-Lorraine. Nonetheless I do love to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Irish music and food. On the 17th our house will ring with old songs from the Chieftains, Irish Rovers, Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, with a little James Galway thrown in for a jig or two in the kitchen. A tumbler or two of Red Breast or Bushmills might keep the cook smiling as well.

Ireland, the Emerald Isle, the land of 40 shades of green - the name alone brings to mind vivid images of a patchwork quilt of fields separated by stone walls, a rugged coastline where thundering waves crash against the cliffs to send plumes of spray into the air, tranquil lakes and salmon-filled streams set against a background of lushly forested hills. There are no big cities in my mind's travelogue, just the occasional widely-scattered small town filled with a few cottages, communities where pub owners and customers alike welcome you by name. Nope, I've never traveled to Ireland, but I've seen some really old movies that pictured it that way. Did Pat O'Brien get it wrong? 

Our St. Patrick's Day menu tends to remain the same. It's not carved in stone, mind you, but the expected dishes include corned beef, colcannon, roasted carrots and small ramekins of sweet bread pudding with a whiskey-flavored hard sauce and possibly Irish coffee. No soda bread, thank you very much. There is room for flexibility in the appetizer category. A platter of Lox and smoked salmon, appropriate condiments and rye crackers will greet everyone this year. 

The rye crackers are an experiment for 2011, a change from my usual crostini. The cracker recipe came straight from the back of a rye flour package, purchased for a yet-to-be-tried bread recipe. The crackers proved to be winners, so good that we nibbled away most of the first batch as it cooled. Our unrestrained sampling did point how important it is to roll the dough to an ultrathin 1/8 - 1/16th-inch thickness, and not overcook the crackers. Roll them too thick and they're cookies, not crispy crackers. Bake them a wee bit past slightly-browned edges and the caraway can develop an unappealing burned taste. Done correctly they are quite good.

RL enthusiastically suggested that we give up store-bought crackers completely. Not going to happen! But I am eager to try another batch or two with other flavorings in the dough, or maybe a sprinkle of seeds, cheese shreds, sea salt or fresh herbs on top for a different flavor finish.

Rye Crackers
From Bob’s Red Mill package and website
Makes about 24 crackers (depending on size)

1/2 cup Unbleached White Flour (AP)
1/2 cup Dark Rye Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Caraway Seeds
4 Tbsp Margarine (Might Irish cooks use butter?)
3 Tbsp Milk

MIX together dry ingredients and seeds.

WORK in margarine until fine.

STIR in milk.
FORM into ball and roll out to 1/8 - 1/16 inch between waxed paper.

CUT into desired shapes, prick with fork and transfer to ungreased cookie sheet.
BAKE 400 F for 5-6 minutes until lightly browned on edges.
COOL completely on rack.

STORE in airtight container.
(They might need a quick crisp in the oven if you store them longer than a day or two.)

Other cracker recipes for you to try:
Gluten-Free Pecan Crackers at glutenfreegoddess
Olive Oil Crackers at 101 Cookbooks
Parmesan and Thyme Crackers by Ina Garten
Parmesan Cream Crackers by N.Y. Times Minimalist


  1. Would love to try making my own crackers some day. Experimenting with different flavours would be fun!

  2. Leaf, I'll look forward to a post about your cracker flavor experiments, and of course to your amazing photographs.


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