How to CookHors D'Oeuvre

Fennel Seed Crackers

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Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

This week, Elodie Bellegarde of Framing Plates gives us the perfect savory cracker to enjoy with a good cheese and a glass of champagne.

I wasn’t into cheese until I was 20, when I met my British husband. We still joke about how I finally became French after a meal at his friends' home. After a few drinks and some great food, they presented us with a box of ripe and smelly Camembert, crackers, and a bottle of port. I was first surprised by the fact that the British serve cheese after dessert (cheese is usually served before dessert in France). Once accustomed to this idea, I was struck by how good cheese tastes with port. I have become totally addicted to cheese since that moment.

I now love any cheese but have a preference for stronger ones. What also struck me is how different a culinary experience it is when eaten with crackers. I do like a nice piece of goat’s cheese with a slice of sourdough or walnut bread, but there is something really enjoyable about cheese and crackers. The combination isn’t overbearing and gives cheese a chance to stand out on its own. The crunchiness of a cracker balances well with the softer texture of a blue cheese or a Camembert to name a few. I think on that point the French could learn a thing or two from their English neighbors.

I’ve been really into making my own edible gifts and have found that crackers make wonderful little packages. They can be made in advance since they keep well in an airtight container. They can also be cut into different shapes and customized to the receiver’s tastes and dietary requirements. A selection of homemade crackers makes a very special gift to take to a dinner party. Wrapped in a pretty package with a handwritten label, they are sure to put a smile on the face of the lucky recipient.

This recipe is really versatile. Feel free to try out new flavors and even flours. I particularly like crackers flavored with rosemary and sea salt, charcoal (it tastes great with goat’s cheese), olive oil or walnut. The list is endless. Stored in an airtight container or jar, they will keep for about 10 days.

Fennel Seed Crackers
Makes about 2 dozen

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 ounces butter, cubed
1 teaspoon of salt (Maldon or sea salt preferably)
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, or more to taste
Black pepper, to taste
5 to 7 tablespoons cold water (you may need more or less)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Put all the ingredients except for the water in a clean bowl. With your hands, combine until crumbs form. Add some of the water, a little at a time to form a ball. If the dough is too dry add more water, if too wet add more flour. Don’t overwork the dough or the crackers will be tough once baked.

Roll the dough on a clean, floured surface to about a 1/2 centimeter thickness. Cut the dough into circles, diamonds, or any shape you like, and place the pieces onto the prepared tray, leaving a little bit of space between each cracker.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crackers turn a light shade of brown. Leave to cool and transfer into an airtight container.

Save and print the recipe here.

Tags: Snack, DIY Food, How-To & Diy, Small Batch