Crack into the summer season

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

A summer staple: Try these recipes for homemade crackers and hummus during your next summer picnic.

“What do you call a crate full of ducks?”

A Box of Quackers.

It all started with crackers. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, crackers were created using some Yankee ingenuity.

A cracker-like product was made in 1792 by John Pearson of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Made from just flour and water, he called it “pilot bread.” Because of its long shelf life, his “hardtack” or “sea biscuits” were handy food for sailors who took them to sea on journeys.

In 1801, another Massachusetts baker, Josiah Bent, burned a batch of biscuits that he had baking in his brick oven. The burned biscuits made crackling noises, so Bent dubbed them “crackers.” These crackers caught on, and by 1810 his business really took off. Years later, Bent sold his interest to a company that would become known as Nabisco — the name derived from Bent’s National Biscuit Company.

Do you miss the sweet smell wafting up from the old Nabisco Company that was located on the Boulevard at Byberry Road? I do. But, I also miss the great taste of their crackers. When Nabisco moved and turned off their ovens here, I swear they changed the ingredients in their crackers.

Memorial Day is fast approaching, and so is picnic time. Serve some good, homemade, crunchy, preservative-free crackers (goodbye, Nabisco!) along with some hummus, and let the summer begin.

CRACKERS

1½ cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

1 tsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup cold water

Toppings Optional:

1 egg white

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, chia seeds, garlic powder, rosemary, whatever you like.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix together flour, salt, pepper and sugar. Add olive oil and water, and stir into a dough. Form into a ball and let rest for 10 minutes. OR

Use a food processor to mix flour, salt, pepper and sugar.

Add the oil and pulse to mix.

Add cold water through the feed tube. After the dough starts to form a ball, allow the machine to run a few more seconds. Form dough into a ball. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut ball into 6 equal pieces. Cover and refrigerate dough while you work with one piece of dough at a time.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece as thin as possible into a rectangle-like shape (about 10 to 12 inches x 6 inches). Gently peel dough off work surface and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick surface with fork. If adding toppings, brush tops very lightly with egg white and sprinkle on your topping.

Bake for 10–15 minutes (depending on thickness) or until the edges are browned.

Transfer crackers to wire rack to cool.

When completely cooled, store in an airtight container.

Break off pieces for sharing or break into shards.

If you are a parrot, no need to read further. However, if you like some dip with your crackers, try the following hummus recipe.

HUMMUS

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained

1/2 cup light sesame seeds

3 large garlic cloves, cut in quarters

4 Tbsp. olive oil

4 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Garnish: Olive oil and Parsley sprigs

Heat a small, heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat and add sesame seeds. Stir seeds frequently until they start to turn golden brown. Remove to a plate, as you don’t want them to burn. Allow to cool.

Rinse and drain beans. Add beans to food processor (or blender) and pulse on/off until beans are chopped.

Add cooled seeds, garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to processor.

Pulse mixture on/off, and then process until mixture turns into a smooth hummus paste.

Put hummus in serving bowl. Swirl the top, and drizzle with a little olive oil and parsley.

Refrigerate before serving.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at Whats-cook-inNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

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