LIKE MANY, I’VE been spending my weekends baking something different. It’s become a project with my sister-in-law who lives in San Francisco. We’ve done English muffins, naan, yeasted doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and more, texting each other photos and videos of the process and finished products. I don’t think either of us is contemplating a sourdough starter yet, but all this baking has had me searching the depths of my recipe box for our next baking adventure.
The best one I have stumbled across was for crispbread. Traditionally a light, crispy cracker made from rye, crispbreads have been a staple for Scandinavians for hundreds of years.
Sure, over the years there have been a few missteps when it comes to crispbread. Much like lobster and pork belly, crispbread was often dismissed as “poor man’s food” due to its long shelf life and low cost. Beginning in the 1930s, Minneapolis cracker company Ry-Krisp ran a series of ads tying their low-calorie rye crispbreads to weight-loss (or reducing) plans.
Vitamins and minerals were touted — as well as “recommendations” by physicians. Ads usually featured a voluptuous woman in clothes straining to fit her body, surrounded by thin men and women; a conversation bubble was filled with the words, “Someone ought to tell her about Ry-Krisp.”
Diet culture hasn’t evaporated — but now, in the age of tartines and fancy toast, I’m hoping we can think of crispbreads merely as a flavorful vehicle for everything from smashed avocado and a squeeze of lime to whipped ricotta and honey.
Much like lavash, flatbread or even matzo, crispbread is a lot like any sort of cracker you could bake up. However, the bonus is that it’s an incredibly forgiving dough that works well rolled thin or thick, baked crispy or chewy.
The recipe I use is from Portland-area baker Sean Coyne and combines a full-flavored rye flour with a small amount of yeast, water and salt. It’s a wet, sticky dough that is endlessly adaptable. You could go for a mix of rye and wheat flour, or even blend seeds or nuts into the dough before rolling and baking.
I really prefer a thicker, chewier crispbread — which isn’t traditional. These can be further crisped with a few minutes in the toaster oven, smeared with nut butter or jam. They also can be topped with a smoked salmon schmear, capers and a little chopped red onion.
Slather on whipped ricotta studded with blue cheese crumbles and apple slices, egg salad or blanched asparagus and pesto.
Roll the dough thinner and bake a bit longer for a crispy crispbread that can hold up to these toppings, but can also be used as a substitute for chips, scooping up salsa, tabbouleh or hummus. Crumble the crackers into chili or soup, or serve them with your next charcuterie and cheese plate.
Let inspiration guide you on your crispbread journey.
Adapted from Sean Coyne
2 teaspoons (10 grams) kosher salt
2 cups (430 grams) warm water
Scant 5 cups (500 grams) rye flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) yeast
1. Add salt to warm water; stir to combine. In a large bowl, combine flour and yeast. Pour water mixture into flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until well-combined. Dough will be wet and sticky.
2. Cover with a towel, and let ferment for 45-60 minutes. Dough will rise slightly, but not like a bread dough. Once ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Turn out dough onto a floured work surface or piece of floured parchment paper, and dust top of dough with flour. Place another piece of parchment paper atop the dough, and roll a thin, flat rectangle. Cut into smaller, even rectangles, and dock all over with a fork.
4. Roll out each piece onto lightly floured parchment paper, rolling into circles or any shape you desire. Slide parchment paper onto baking sheet, and dock dough all over with a fork.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool, and eat with desired toppings.