Crackers: rusks ingeminated

I’ve been getting discouraged with the cracker experiments. It’s hard to make a dough that’s both workable and can be rolled out and that bakes crispy. So I started thinking about rusks again, which I’d tried a while ago with reasonable success. I was at a grocery store and they had some rusks that were incredibly dense; I should have bought a box to try them. There was virtually no discernible crumb; they looked like custard that had been dried and then sliced.

It occurred to me that I should be able to do the same by using a bread recipe but not using any leavening. No baking powder, yeast, or baking soda. I also have this theory, possibly incorrect, that I should use some wheat flour and knead the dough and develop the gluten, in order to increase the density of the loaf. What I’m after is the mother of all bricks. After it’s baked then I can slice it and rebake the slices.

So I did that; I started with the Hilo bran bread, from Bernard Clayton Jr.’s The complete book of breads, but I left out the baking powder and baking soda. I should have also left out the sugar and molasses, which makes for a nice sweet cracker, except that crackers aren’t usually sweet. And I substituted whole wheat flour for the white flour. For the second batch I also halved the recipe, which makes two regular loaves, and added oil and potato.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons instant potato
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup water

I mixed the dry ingredients together and dumped that into a food processor, then started it and drizzled in the oil. After the oil was well incorporated then I drizzled in the water. I needed to stop it and mix in the flour that was around the edges. I was using some smaller plastic blade that came with my food processor but afterwards switched to the metal blade. Next time I’ll start with the metal blade and see if it’s better about not needing to stop the food processor and mix stuff in from the edges. I was worried that the metal blade would cut the gluten but I read in a bread book that the metal blade works fine.

After the dough came together I let the food processor run for about a minute, until I could see that the gluten had developed and it was a gooey ball. Then I put it in a plastic bowl with a snap on lid and let it rest for a few hours. Then I put it in a mini loaf pan and baked it for 1 hour in a 350 oven. Then I cooled it and then sliced it thinly with a very sharp serrated knife.

When slicing it it’s important to let the sawing motion do the work and not press too hard on the knife. The bread is so dense that it’s not difficult to slice it thinly. I put the slices on wire cooling racks that are on a cookie sheet and put them in a 290 degree oven. 290 happens to be what I can select that’s below 350 with my funky oven. I’ve been rebaking them for 30 minutes and then turning them over and doing the other side, but they’re still not fully dry enough, so for the next batch I’ll rebake them for 40 minutes per side.

This should give me a lot more options. I was reading in this cookbook a recipe using a mash, where you take whole wheat seeds (called wheat berries) and let them soak for 24 hours, then add them to the dough. So I have some spelt berries soaking which will be ready to go tomorrow. It should be interesting to also try this with whole oats (oat groats), millet, amaranth, and rye berries (each separately). And I can start experimenting again with other flours, and maybe start using up that sorghum flour.

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