These soda crackers are about as easy to make as they can be and taste a whole lot better than store-bought.
When I was a kid back in the days of the dinosaur we ate soda crackers by the barrel full and they were always the Saltine brand. We would joke at my younger brother who would crumble crackers into his Campbell’s Tomato soup. “Rol!”, we’d say, “Are you having a little tomato soup with your crackers?” because he invariably crunched up a whole tube. I have to admit they made the soup taste a lot better. When my mom made homemade chili my dad would sit there with a package of saltines and as he ate he would swipe a bit of butter on the saltine and eat it with the chili.
Now, however, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool make it your-selfer so the other day when we had chili but no crackers I decided to make my own. How hard can it be I says to myself? Just so ya know I am not a cracker new-bie. I am an experienced cracker maker. But for some reason, that is lost to the ages, I have never made soda crackers. The crackers I made before were always whole meal and they always turned out all right if not a bit chewy and hard tack-like. This time I really wanted that soda cracker taste that you get when using white flour.
This recipe is from my mother’s well-worn 1950’s era Joy of Cooking cookbook. It was bequeathed to me when she passed away and it’s full of notes and almost, but not quite, falling apart. I’m taking care of it so I can pass it to my daughter.
About 100 crackers (ed. note: depending how thin you roll them out)
Combine in a medium bowl:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine in a small bowl:
2/3 cup hot water
1/2 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. If the dough is sticky, beat in a little more flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (Or mix and knead the dough in a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. This is what I did.) Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn once to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight. (I let mine stand a couple hours.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease 2 large baking sheets. (I used parchment paper.) On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an approximate 18 x 6 inch rectangle. Fold into thirds, as if you were folding a business letter, and roll out again into a rectangle of the same size. Cut into squares or shapes. (I used a floured pizza cutter wheel.) Prick your little cracker shapes all over with a fork, and transfer to the baking sheets. Put them close together but not touching. Sprinkle with salt (or poppy, sesame seeds, caraway seeds or a combination of all.) Bake until crisp and lightly browned around the edges, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough. Cool on wire racks.
Ed Note: I did have some leftover but they weren’t as good the next day. They must have absorbed a little moisture because they weren’t crisp anymore. Maybe a couple minutes in a hot oven would have crisped them up again.
(Image is from New England Today Food. We ate all our crackers before I even thought of taking a picture.)