Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cracking the Cracker Code

I have been buying many gluten free snacks over the past few months and while I have been pleasantly pleased, I take much more satisfaction when I am doing more with my hands besides dunking them into a box and raising them to my mouth. I have been a dedicated fan to Nut Thins, trying every flavor and combination (don’t judge my avid snacking)and found sea salt and barbecue to be my favorites. Although, I have never met a nut thin that I haven't liked. I have probably never consumed so many carbs in my life, but I think I have been justifying to myself that, “hey, I can eat that still!” I have reverted back to snacking on fruits and veggies since noticing my waist line expanding, and cut back on buying so many crackers. But sometimes, we just crave a good bit of salt or crunch in the afternoon to sate our taste buds until dinner time though right?
I was perusing different homemade snacks on other gluten free blogs, and came across a stunning almond flour recipe from elanaspantry. I have really enjoyed using almond flour for its texture, flavor and health benefits.Elana delved in a little more to its health benefits and I must say I am more intrigued than ever:

“Almond flour is highly nutritious, easy to use and readily available. For those of us watching our glycemic index, almond flour is high in protein, low in carbohydrates and low in sugars.
Unlike other alternatives to wheat flour, almond flour is moist and delicious. After having tested just about every gluten free flour out there, I can save you a lot of time and hassle when I say that almond flour is far superior to other flours in terms of taste, nutrition and ease-of-use.”

Health Benefits

1.Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats as are found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.
2.Researchers who studied data from the Nurses Health Study estimated that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate in an average diet resulted in a 30% reduction in heart disease risk. Researchers calculated even more impressive risk reduction--45%--when fat from nuts was substituted for saturated fats (found primarily found in meat and dairy products).
3.In addition to their cholesterol-lowering effects, almonds' ability to reduce heart disease risk may also be partly due to the antioxidant action of the vitamin E found in the almonds, as well as to the LDL-lowering effect of almonds' monounsaturated fats. (LDL is the form of cholesterol that has been linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease).
4.In addition to healthy fats and vitamin E, a quarter-cup of almonds contains almost 99 mg of magnesium (that's 24.7% of the daily value for this important mineral), plus 257 mg of potassium.
5.Almonds appear to not only decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar, but also provide antioxidants to mop up the smaller amounts of free radicals that still result.
*Taken from elanaspantry.com

Okay, enough of the health lesson and onto the real joys of cooking with almond flour, eating it! I decided to make my own crackers to test out my new knowledge. To make sure I knew what I was getting into, I started with one of Elana’s recipes and would then play with it once I knew that it would be successful.
There are two cooking staples I think everyone should grow in the garden, BASIL and ROSEMARY. Well, and mint, but it escaped my mind to plant it this year. I have been diving into my basil plants so I thought it was time to give my rosemary its 15 minutes of fame. I found a recipe on Elanaspantry that married my two current loves: ROSEMARY CRACKERS.

Rosemary Crackers

1 ¾ cups blanched almond flour
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg

1.In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt and rosemary
2.In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil and egg
3.Stir wet ingredients into almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined
4.Roll the dough into a ball and press between 2 sheets of parchment paper to ⅛ inch thickness
5.Remove top piece of parchment paper
6.Transfer the bottom piece with rolled out dough onto baking sheet
7.Cut dough into 2-inch squares with a knife or pizza cutter
8.Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden
9.Let crackers cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes, then serve

Yield 24 crackers

I know I said 15 minutes of fame, but I let me rosemary crackers bake closer to 20 minutes to make sure they became cracker-esque. Hey, it’s a blog, I can make up my own adjectives to suit my cooking.
These crackers were absolutely delicious! I tried olive tapenade on top, cheeses, prosciutto, and also enjoyed them plain. I think it may be a while before I buy another box of crackers.

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