When I was a kid, we always had at least two or three packages of crackers in the pantry for snacks and quick lunch prep. There would be my mom’s ruggedly healthy Ak-Maks, a box of kid-friendly Wheat Thins, and a plastic sleeve of rice cakes (to this day, I like to spread a couple with hummus and call it lunch).
Still, even growing up in such a cracker-friendly household, it took me until my late twenties to realize that one could attempt cracker-making at home. My conversion came during a spell when I was wildly addicted to $4 packages of crisp seeded flatbreads from the ubiquitous natural foods behemoth. I was in grad school at the time and on a budget that could not sustain this habit. And so I took a good look at the ingredient list, did a bit of recipe searching and headed to the kitchen.
My homemade product wasn’t as uniformly flat and beautiful as the store-bought version, but far outstripped it in terms of flavor and cost. Soon, I was experimenting with all manner of crackers, flatbreads, pitas, and focaccias.
I found that there was no easier way to impress people than to bring a platter of homemade crackers and white bean spread to a party (so cheap and simple!). I discovered that fresh-from-the-oven whole wheat flats are dreamy wrapped around leftover roast chicken. And I learned that you can top a ball of yeasted flatbread dough with nearly anything and people will think you’re a magical cook.
Tips for successful homemade flatbread:
Parchment paper is your friend. Roll or press the dough out on a sheet and transfer both the paper and the dough to the oven to bake. You’ll never have a dough-moving failure again.
I like to bake my flatbreads on a preheated baking stone. I got mine for cheap at Marshalls several years ago. However, if you don’t want to spring for a baking stone, use an inverted baking sheet instead. It doesn’t hold the heat quite as well, but is still a useable substitute.
Roll out your dough as thinly and evenly as you can. It will get easier with practice.
Crisp flatbreads will keep for up to a week in an airtight container. The softer breads are best eaten the day they were baked (though both the yeasted and unyeasted versions included here will toast up nicely for a few days).
Finally, if you can’t bear to heat up your oven this time of year, heat your baking stone on your outdoor grill and bake on top of that instead. It works like a dream.
Crisp Rosemary Flatbread
1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the board
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup water
⅓ cup olive oil, plus 3 teaspoons for brushing
Sea salt for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 450°F. Position a baking stone or heavy baking sheet on the middle rack so that it can heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, baking powder, salt, and black pepper. Make a well in the center and add the water and olive oil. Slowly stir the liquid ingredients into the flour until it has formed a shaggy dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times until it pulls together.
Divide dough into 3 pieces. Set two aside and cover with a damp tea towel to keep them from drying out. Place remaining piece on a large sheet of parchment paper and roll until it is quite thin.
Drizzle dough with approximately 1 teaspoon olive oil. Brush or rub with your fingers to distribute. Sprinkle with sea salt and one-third of the reserved chopped rosemary. Slide round, parchment and all, onto preheated baking stone and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is golden brown. Place the flatbread onto a rack to cool. Prepare and bake the remaining pieces of dough in the same manner. When cool, break the flatbread rounds into pieces.
Stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
1½ cups hot water (approximately 180°F)
2 envelopes yeast
2 teaspoons honey
2 cups all purpose flour
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon fine grain sea salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced sage
2 large shallots, sliced
Flaky sea salt
In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine hot water, yeast and honey. Let it sit for five minutes, until the yeast gets foamy.
Add flours, salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Fix mixer with the dough hook and mix for at 3-4 minutes, until the dough forms a smooth ball (you can also knead it by hand). Once the dough has come together and looks fairly smooth, pull it together into a ball and drizzle it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and roll it to coat.
Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set in a warm, draft-free spot for an hour.
Preheat oven to 450°F when you set the dough to rise. Position a baking stone or heavy baking sheet on the middle rack so that it can heat.
Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide into four equal-sized pieces. Press the dough into a disc about the size of your palm. Once it becomes to large to handle comfortably while holding, place it on a square of parchment paper and continue to press the dough into a round that is 6 to 7 inches in diameter.
When dough is fully stretched, drizzle it with one tablespoon olive oil and top with some of the minced sage, sliced shallots, and sea salt.
Slice the dough (still on the parchment) onto the baking stone or preheated baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until it has puffed and is nicely browned on the top. Remove flatbread from the oven and repeat with the remaining dough.
Unyeasted Whole Wheat Flatbread
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour, plus more for the board
1¼ cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the bowl
1½ teaspoons sea salt
In a large bowl, combine the flour, water, oil, and salt in a bowl until they just come together. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so that the flour can absorb the water.
When the time is up, lightly flour your countertop. Scrape dough out onto the prepared surface and gently knead. The dough is done when it is quite smooth and elastic. Gather the dough it into a ball and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover again with the damp tea towel and let the dough rest for 1 to 2 hours.
About an hour before you want to bake your flatbread, preheat your oven to 450°F. Position a baking stone or heavy baking sheet on the middle rack so that it can heat.
When dough is finished resting, divide it into eight equal pieces. Place the dough ball on a sheet of parchment and dust the top generously with flour. Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll the dough out as thinly as you possibly can without tearing it (7 to 8 inches in diameter is ideal).
Slide dough, still on the parchment, onto the preheated baking stone. Bake for 4 to 7 minutes, until the bread has puffed a little and has developed light brown spots across the top. Remove from the oven and repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
This flatbread is best eaten warm.