We always think that most industrially produced food can be reproduced at home - because they most definitely started out that way before machinery was introduced. Yes it may be time consuming and you may not achieve the 'perfect' looks that you find on store shelves, but looks are deceiving. And who doesn't like a rustic looking homemade baked goods?!
To our surprise, they are not difficult to make at all, and in fact, not time consuming (if you don't count waiting time). Though, to achieve the amazing crunch, the secret is in 'twice-baked', and it therefore does require patience!
The dough is first baked into soft loaves, which, if you are impatient like us, are delicious in its own right. The bake is super nutty and fruity. Cut into thick slabs and you have the perfect breakfast with big mugs of strong black tea. But trust us, if you hold it off, refrigerate them properly before slicing and baking for the second time, you will have a great show stopper for your cheese platter alongside a creamy blue or a tangy mature cheddar!
In our recipe we are using dried cherries and brazil nuts, but feel free to use other combinations, such as pecans and dried cranberries, raisins and almond (as is the case for the Ryvita version) etc.
Some useful tips:
1. As the old saying goes, patience is a virtue. Let the loaves cool to room temperature before transferring them to a box freeze bag and refrigerate. If you are making the crackers, don't cut the loaves whilst hot - it just won't work!
2. slice the crackers as thinly as possible which will help with even cooking of the crackers during the second bake.
3. During the second bake, make sure that the crackers are thoroughly baked through, dark brown in colour but not burnt, and that the centre is no longer pale (otherwise you will end up with a really chewy bake!)
Recipe below makes two small tea loaves (serves 8) or 30 or so crackers, depending on thickness
135g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
A small pinch of salt
27g brown sugar
5ml vegetable oil
50g malt extract
125g dried cherries
135g nuts (we used brazil nuts
1 - 2 tbsp dried rosemary
Butter or vegetable oil, for greasing
1. Heat oven to 180C. Add flour, baking soda, salt and brown sugar into a mixing bowl. Add buttermilk and oil, mix well. Add malt extract and mix well again. Tip in the dried cherries, nuts, and rosemary. Mix well.
3. Lightly grease two 13cm x 5cm mini loaf tins with vegetable oil or butter. Tip half of the batter into each loaf tin. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes until golden brown on top. Turn the loaves out onto cooling rack and let cool completely.
4. To serve as tea loaf, cut into chunky slabs and serve with big mugs of strong black tea.
5. To make the crackers, place the cooled loaves in an airtight box and chill for 3 – 4 hours. When ready to bake, heat oven to 150C. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Then, thinly slice the loaves (about 2mm to 4mm) with a serrated knife and place the sliced crackers on the baking tray. Bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack before serving. You may have to this in batches.