I’ve spent the fall working on publicizing my new book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, so I when I tied my apron on this morning, I was looking forward to once again working up a new recipe. It’s something I’ve done many times previously for my five cookbooks, but I always feel the thrill of anticipation as I get out the bowls and measuring spoons. My experiments don’t always turn out great the first time, but this morning everything went smoothly.
I wanted to make crackers with barrel cactus seeds because that is one of the only wild foods available in the desert winter. Crackers are always a good accompaniment to the soups we eat in the winter and they also go great with the salads that I make for lunch from greens harvested from my garden.
The most delicious homemade crackers I’ve had were made by caterer Kristine Jensen of Gallery of Food here in Tucson, so I called and asked her for some tips. Kristine talked about the importance of adding lots of flavor to the crackers and that certainly is a reason for making your own. To get that flavor, she uses a variety of flours and adds lots of herbs and spices. Her new curry-flavored crackers are very popular. She also said it is important to roll the dough very thin, spray the top of the rolled dough with olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse-ground salt.
With Kristine’s tips in mind and after looking over a few published recipes, I decided to use blue corn and low-gluten Sonoran White Wheat for a good base flavor, barrel cactus seeds for crunch, and coriander and dried rosemary (of which I had lots in my garden) for an extra punch of flavor. I rolled the cracker dough out on parchment baking paper because the dough is very fragile and not having to transfer the unbaked crackers separately to the baking pan meant fewer disasters.
Blue Corn Crackers with Barrel Cactus Seeds
1/2 cup Sonoran white wheat or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup blue corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
2tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons water
2-3 tablespoons barrel cactus seeds
2-3 tablespoons crushed dried herbs
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the dough until well combined, then knead a little to even out the texture. Divide in half. Roll out on parchment baking paper. Brush or spray lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle salt, seeds and dried herbs on top and roll again to press into the dough. Cut into squares and gently separate. Transfer paper to a baking sheet. Bake in heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes, you don’t want them to burn. They should be lightly brown on the bottom. They may be a little soft but will crisp up as they cool.
A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage tells the history of how residents of the Santa Cruz Valley have fed themselves over thousands of years, why they are still eating some of the same foods over that time, and how that led to Tucson’s designation of the first American city to earn the coveted UNESCO City of Gastronomy. You can order the book from your favorite bookstore, on-line, or from the Native Seeds/SEARCH bookstore.