Oh so many years ago now I first made these crackers from Christine Manfield‘s book Spice. It is a funny story. I used to sit in that fabulous cafe in Woollahra – Jones the Grocer I believe it was, in Moncur St. It closed long ago, but back then it was THE destination for ingredients, food, equipment and cook books. It had the best Fromagerie. It also incorporated a cafe with one large, long table and great coffee. I’d sit for ages browsing through Spice which the cafe kept with a pile of cookbooks on the table to read while drinking coffee. I loved that book. (This is before I was vegetarian – it is heavily non-vegetarian, with a few fabulous exceptions.)
Some years later I bought Spice and over time cooked various things from it. Her Chilli Jam is particularly exceptional! One day I took a good look at the author’s picture and with a shock realised that I knew her a long time ago – when we were both at Uni. I think this is my one claim to fame. Anyway we have since crossed paths again and I’ve had the pleasure of eating at her restaurants – what a chef!
One of the very easy things to make from the book are these wafer thin biscuits. They are divine with cheese – aged Cheddar, Gruyere, washed rind and blue cheeses. Add quince paste to complete the picture. They are also great with dips and soft spreads – apply with a knife or spoon to the cracker rather than use them spoon-like, or you might find pieces of cracker in with the dip.
Lemony Pepper Crackers
220 g plain flour
1 – 1.5 tspn freshly ground black pepper, sifted (the amount depends on how peppery you like your crackers)
0.75 tspn fine sea salt (I like the crackers salty so will use 1 tspn or so)
1 tspn caster sugar
finely grated zest 1 lemon
50 ml lemon juice, strained
100 ml water
50 ml olive oil
Mix the dry ingredients together, then blend in a food processor to make a crumbly dough. Knead the dough on the bench until it comes together in a ball. Add more flour if it seems too wet. You want a consistency similar to a pasta dough.
Roll the dough in cling wrap and rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 170-180C, less if it is fan forced.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces, and roll it through the widest rollers of a pasta machine. Dust with flour, fold into 3 or 4, and roll again. Continue this until the dough has lost its stickiness and rolls easily. Roll without folding 4 or 5 times through the widest setting.
Then roll each each sheet through each of the other settings, dusting lightly with flour between each roll, until it has passed through the finest setting.
Cut the sheets into desired shapes and arrange carefully on a baking tray without overlapping. Bake the crackers for about 10 mins until crisp and slightly coloured. If the first tray takes too long, increase the oven temperature a little for the next tray.
Cool on a wire rack, then store in a airtight container.
recipe notes and alternatives
This basic recipe is quite adaptable. Try adding turmeric to it. Perhaps a spice mix instead of pepper. What about using a little spinach puree in place of some of the water. A little onion juice. A little (very little) garlic. The lemon-pepper flavour goes very well with cheese. With other flavours you might pair them with simple salads.