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Carta Musica (Semolina Crackers)

December 10, 2012

Every day till Christmas, we're bringing you 12 Days of Baking: 12 all-new baking recipes to lift holiday spirits -- from breakfast pastries to dinner rolls, and all the desserts you can handle.

Today: Amanda brings us carta musica (semolina crackers), a new feather in your hors d'oeuvre cap.

Carta Musica

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The first chef I worked for was Jody Adams, back when she was running Michela's in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Now, she's the chef and owner of Rialto Restaurant, also in Cambridge). Her kitchen staff at Michela's was diverse, and unlike most restaurant kitchens, there was gender equality and a fun, supportive atmosphere. Had it not been, I'm not sure I'd be here writing about food. Thanks to Jody, I was fully seduced by the culture she'd created, and decided then and there to make a career in the food business.

Jody was also ahead of her time in her love for Italian peasant cooking, epitomized by these crackers -- "carta musica," or sheet music -- which she served at Michela's.

Making crackers seems daunting, which is why most people pick them up at the grocery store, but these can be whipped up by anyone who can make pie dough. All you do is work 3 ingredients by hand into a firm dough. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible (you should be able to see through it). Lay the dough on a baking stone in a 500-degree oven. Then watch it through the oven door as it puffs and warps and sets to toasty, rigid crispness. The perfect hors d'oeuvre crackers are within reach.

My family has been making these for 20 years, ever since I worked at Michela's. At the holidays, we serve them with smoked salmon and this lemon-herb cream. This year, I'm changing to a smoked fish spread. But you might want to pair it with a cheese ball, pate, potted shrimp, rillettes, or pimento cheese. These crackers play nicely and get along with everyone, even dips.

Carta Musica (Semolina Crackers)

Adapted from Jody Adams, the chef at Rialto in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Makes about 20 large crackers

1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

See the recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


burns W. December 18, 2012
A few weeks ago I set out to figure out crackers too - and came up with the same result. Here's my blog about it: http://homecookexplorer.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/of-flour-and-water-part-1-make-your-own-crackers/ I'm interested to try the roling pin idea too. When using the pasta maker its best to have the dough just slightly too wet than too dry. Add more flour until it glutenates and rolls through easily. Its a lot easier than it being too dry. What IS fun are the taste ingredients. Family favs here are cumin/corriander/fennel whole seeds mixed in.
Devangi R. December 11, 2012
made some this sunday with a little bit different recipe with fenugreek leaves and sesame..I used combination of flours and instead of semolina I used coarse corn meal.
Alexandra H. December 10, 2012
Jody was the first chef I ever worked for, too! And years prior to that, I took a baking class with her in which we made Carta di Musica! I still ave the original (typed and photocopied) recipe.
Greenstuff December 10, 2012
I made a Jody Adams recipe for a group of former Bostonians just last night! A rich mixed autumn gratin. She's a real talent, and eating at Rialto is always a treat. I recommend the book she wrote with her husband, In the Hands of a Chef.
Panfusine December 10, 2012
wow.. multiple flavor possibilities.. cracked pepper, cumin, aleppo pepper come immediately to mind!
hardlikearmour December 10, 2012
I'm with panfusine - great recipe, love the look of the crackers and they seem very open to adding spices or seeds! Have you ever tried any variations?
Amanda H. December 10, 2012
So glad you brought this up because, yes!, we have added other flavors. My mother likes them with cracked black pepper. I've done chopped herbs. And I think any kind of seed would be great. Have fun!
thirschfeld December 10, 2012
I have always called it pane carasau. I love the stuff, I like to watch it get all bubbly. I top it with feta and z'atar or make this which is posted here on the site. http://www.food52.com/recipes/8346_pane_carasau_and_lamb_deep_dish_lasagna
Panfusine December 10, 2012
the texture reminds me of the Rosemary & thyme Pita chips from Vol. 1, pairs beautifully with Hummus. I pan toasted them on a cast iron skillet, they still puff up like in the photograph, although they end up with little brown spots rather than the subtle golden brown color that baking yields.
AntoniaJames December 10, 2012
Really looking forward to making these. Thinking kala jeera would be fabulous. And this time of year, chopped rosemary perhaps with a few fennel seeds thrown in for good measure come to mind. Been searching for a good, simple cracker recipe for a few weeks now. Thanks for sharing this recipe! ;o)
pierino December 11, 2012
Tom is correct. Pane Carasau is Sardegnan dialect. Sardegnans of course don't consider themselves to be Italian...anymore than Corsicans think of themselves to be French.