As a young girl, I never really paid much attention to the simple, unpretentious cracker. I just wrote them off as something you’d pair a dip or some cheese with – a canapé base that allowed for additions of savoury butters and pastes. As a child, I would occasionally nibble on wafer-thin water crackers and plain saltines. Now that I’m older, I fully relish the audible crunch and satisfactory flakiness that perfectly baked crackers provide. And these fennel seed crackers are seriously crunchy and flaky.
It’s been a long time since I’ve attempted crackers. I’ve always known that I’m not the best at rolling out dough to an even thickness (or thinness, in this case). Obviously, the flatter the crackers, the crisper they’ll bake. And everyone likes their crackers crispy, no? Nevertheless, I tried my best and was rewarded with some perfectly flaky, satisfyingly snappy crackers!
Now the trick to optimum flakiness is to use shortening. Shortening yields lighter-textured baked goods. Of course, butter can be used instead, but it naturally contains some amount of water (whereas shortening doesn’t), and produces a cracker that goes easily soft after baking.
And then we have the fennel seeds. For those who don’t know, fennel seeds are tiny, ridged, oval-shaped darlings with delightfully sweet and refreshing notes. They have a distinct flavour and aroma reminiscent of warm, invigorating, anise-like licorice, but are in no way overly pungent. I think they make a wonderful addition to this cracker recipe.
Fennel Seed Crackers
a vegan recipe; adapted from Commonsense Baking.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
60 grams vegetable shortening, chilled
1/2 cup (125mL) filtered water
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
- Using your fingers, rub in the shortening until the mixture starts to resemble fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the fennel seeds.
- Make a well in the centre of the mixture and gradually stir in the water with a wooden spoon until everything comes together and starts to form a dough.
- Gently knead the dough until just smooth, cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180ºC and line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
- Using a knife, divide the chilled dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out each piece on a floured work surface until about 1mm thick. Trim sides to form a rectangle, then cut up into even-sized fingers (or more rustic shapes, if you prefer).
- Place on prepared baking tray and bake for about 12 minutes, or until light golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.