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05 April 2010

quinoa crackers with seeds

quinoa crackers II

Even when I could eat gluten, I was never that big a fan of crackers.

Oh sure, the occasional saltine with a swig of ginger ale when I wasn't feeling well satisfied a need. But no one really enjoys those moments, do they? When I lived in London, a Jacob's cream cracker could sometimes captivate me with its soft crumb and buttery love. The last few of the gluten years I discovered flatbread crackers, particularly the whisper-thin croccantini made by La Panzanella.

But most crackers seemed to me nothing more than a receptacle for cheese. (And really, what could be wrong with that?) Most commercial crackers were either too greasy for my taste (most of them), too crisp, or too bland. I wanted a cracker that didn't snap off on my teeth so immediately that I forgot it was there, but I also wanted a cracker with some taste to it, some serious heft. I never really found the ones I wanted. Seriously, having to go without crackers just didn't seem like a loss.

Last year, I started to miss those flatbread crackers enough that we developed a recipe for them. You'll find them in the cookbook in the fall. (And they come with a surprise.) If I really want those thin flat crackers with air pockets, I just mix up a batch, fire up the oven, and throw a sheet tray on the pizza stone. Done.

But more and more, I started longing for a cracker that was full of taste. A bite of food good enough that I didn't need to fling cheese upon it to mask the lack of flavor.

May I present to you: quinoa crackers with sesame seeds.

sunflower and sesame seeds

You see, recently, a number of who have written to me asking for the recipe for quinoa crackers from my book. I scratched my head for a bit, because I didn't remember them. Oh right! In one passage, I talked about a gluten-free dinner I made for my parents in celebration, a dinner that included homemade quinoa crackers.

Yeah, those were bad.

At the end of this month, I will have lived gluten-free for 5 years. There's no need for me to list all the ways my life has changed since then. (Oh, that's right. You can read about it on this blog.) More joy, more learning, more love, and more laughter than I ever dreamed possible — those are the biggest gifts. But I really feel like I became a baker after I gave up gluten.

I thought I was a good baker in those years before. I was. But I followed recipes, religiously. I never understood the structure of a muffin or why butter made a better cookie than oil or how to listen to a pie in the oven to tell when it is done. I didn't bake by weight.

(Yesterday, while standing at the kitchen counter with me, Lu grabbed our kitchen scale, put a bowl on top of it, and put two mushrooms, a head of garlic, and three teaspoons of sugar into it, all the while looking intently at the panel where the numbers show. She has started baking.)

And so, I love the first bite of a loaf of bread warm out of the oven. But I honestly love the mixing and listening, the figuring out and the shuffle of pans even more.

All this to say that you really don't want the crackers I came up with five years ago. These, I think, you'll want.

They have flax seeds and sesame seeds (or sunflower seeds, depending on your taste), ground up into a meal, to add flavor.

cracker dough laid out

You make the dough in the food processor, so there's not much to do, really. You throw things together and let them whirl.

The dough is a bit rough and crumbly when it's done. Rustic. That's the word to keep in mind. (Don't you love how "rustic" has become code word for raggedy edges, imperfect, but still delicious? That's a pretty good word for my life right now. Perhaps yours too?) But when you roll it out — and I highly recommend you roll it out on a Silpat, right on the baking sheet, as I did above — it smooths into something much more presentable.

(The toddler help is optional.)

quinoa sesame crackers

I figured out, after several batches, that a combination of butter and olive oil makes these crackers what I wanted: full of flavor but still a bit crisp. They don't shatter on the teeth, but they don't bend, either. With all butter, the crackers were too soft, which made them fragile in the fingers. (See that crack up there? That's why.) With all oil, they were too crisp, a little brittle, like old bones in the cold. Combine the two, and you have this cracker.

(Feel free to play with the template, however. You might like a different texture on the tongue.)

One of the secrets to this cracker is cooked quinoa. Since I love the nutty taste of quinoa, I wanted that flavor to wind its way into every bite. That's why you'll see cooked quinoa, quinoa flour, and quinoa flakes in this recipe. It's a quinoa party! However, some people find quinoa a little bitter. If that's you, then replace the quinoa flour with some superfine brown rice flour instead.

These are about the healthiest crackers you can imagine: three kinds of quinoa, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and olive oil. They just look healthy, don't they? Don't be scared, however. They're not those whole grain crisp bread crackers that my friend Sharon ate when she was on a diet.

My dear friends Molly and Tita tasted different batches of these, on different days, knowing they were experimental gluten-free crackers. They both went back for another cracker, and then another. "Wow, these are really good," Molly said, and then grabbed one more.

See this photograph below? Those are the only raggedy broken crackers I had left to photograph yesterday morning. Danny and Lu ate the rest. There was no cheese involved.

I think I might finally be a cracker fan.

quinoa crackers

Quinoa Crackers

I love these with flaxseed, but eat too many and you might feel a little too healthy. In some batches, I ground up sunflower seeds instead, since Danny and I both love the taste of sunflower seeds on our salads. The next time I make these, I'll probably choose the middle way and include flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.

I'll never be done experimenting.

4 tablespoons flaxseed (or sunflower seeds, if you prefer)
4 tablespoons sesame seeds

3 ounces (1/2 cup packed) cooked quinoa
2 ounces (1/2 cup, minus 1 tablespoons) quinoa flour (or, you could substitute 2 ounces superfine brown rice flour)
2 ounces (1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon) quinoa flakes
3 ounces (1/2 cup) potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 ounces butter, softened
2 ounces olive oil
2 to 5 tablespoons ice-cold water (optional)

Preparing to make the crackers. Preheat the oven to 400°. Pull out a sheet tray and line it with a Silpat or a sheet of parchment paper.

Preparing the seeds.
Put the flaxseed and sesame seeds (or sunflower seeds, or all three, depending on your taste) into the food processor. Pulse it until they have broken down but before they become butter.

Mixing in the dry ingredients. Add the cooked quinoa, quinoa flour, quinoa flakes, potato starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, guar gum, and salt to the food processor. Let it run for a couple of minutes, so everything has a chance to mix and dance, and the flours to become blended well.

Finishing the dough. Add the softened butter to the mix. Spin the food processor around. Slowly, drizzle in the oil, with the food processor running. At this point, the dough should be clumping together quite well, but not yet one big ball. If the dough feels at all too dry, add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn off the food processor.

Rolling out the dough. Put the clumps of dough onto the baking sheet. Smoosh the dough together into a vague lump and carefully, gently, roll it out the approximate length and width of the baking sheet. If you want, at this point, you can top the crackers with additional sesame seeds.

Baking the crackers. Bake the crackers until they are browned and firm to the touch, but not too brown or firm to the touch. (that's about 20 minutes in our oven.) Take them out of the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet.

Transfer the cracker (which should be one big sheet, or at least several) to a cutting board. When the cracker has completely cooled, cut it into the size of cracker you want. And so the cracker becomes crackers.

Makes about 20 crackers, depending on your knife.


At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Jessica @ How Sweet said...

Delicious! I have been in search for a recipe to make my own crackers. I just made some quinoa granola so I have lots of it.

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Nikki Everett said...

Beautifully done and sound absolutely yummy:-) We'll be giving these a try

At 9:25 AM, Blogger GFree_Miel said...

These look so good! I've never made my own crackers before, so I definitely want to try it!

At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Josh of Magic Bean Farm said...

That sounds delicious! I actually had the opposite reaction to gluten intolerance for the most part, except for Christmas cookie baking. I largely decided that I'm not going to be one of those pining away for breads I can't have anymore, hopelessly trying to replicate those gluten foods in a sub-par rip-off manner. I ended up moving to Seattle almost right after it happened, and stuck with the many wonderful foods that didn't require gluten! And as I was in a very new place with no friends or family, I didn't have all the temptations of seeing all that gluten being eaten around me for a while.

I've been following your blog for a couple years at least now and have been wanting to do more baking now, and a way to replace my crackers with a home-made version (the bought ones were so expensive! the curse of gluten free I often find in the stores), not that my farm has afforded me much time for baking all these breads and things every week. How to satisfy the time for all the baked goods needs every week? It sounded like a chore more than fun after a while.

I do miss really good italian bread and the really good sandwiches (I used to eat them all the time), but for the most part didn't have an overwhelming feeling of loss until other people would be eating them around me. There are, afterall, so many good foods out there that have never had anything to do with gluten.

I will have to try these crackers, they sound wonderful!

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Josh of Magic Bean Farm said...

P.S. - can't wait for your cookbook! I've been waiting for you to do an actual cookbook for a long time! I will certainly post it on my farmblog when it comes out :)

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Diana said...

Those look delicious! And I LOVE quinoa so I'd probably love these too. :)

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Dina said...

These look so good! I've got everything in the kitchen except for the quinoa flakes. I've never seen those at our health food store (which specializes in GF foodstuffs and supplies). Could you let me know the brand you use so I can try and find it online? Thanks!

At 10:38 AM, Anonymous alissa said...

just wondering why you cut the crackers after baking? I assumed you'd cut them into shapes with a pizza cutter before going in the oven!

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous La Niña said...

They look beautiful! I want me some.
With brie, of course.

Do you deliver?

(I'll meet you half-way, okay? I'll bring the brie.)

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Fiona said...

The crackers sound great - I've never made crackers before, so this will be a first. And amazingly I have everything in the store cupboard!!

At 1:27 PM, Blogger L'Adelaide said...

I have been so missing the crunchy crunch of a good whole grain cracker so many thanks to you for making me one;)

I became GF/CF a month, 2weeks and 3 days ago, struggling lots until I read your book and that book changed my whole outlook...that's saying something for a 58 year old ranch wife woman who has always been a baker with a dear cowboy hubby + 3 grown kids, who expect that sweet, starting-to-brown-cookie fragrance greeting them when they arrive at the back door and head for the cookie jar, that is now long gone, I just might add... and did I love my prize winning brownies? you bet...and did I love my equally over-the-top tummy ache, you can bet your life, NO, I didn't!

so this path has changed my lifestyle in more ways than one. and I can't say I feel marvelous yet... I don't-tired, grouchy, gimpy, you name it-BUT I have hopes of a healthier, happier me in a year or two and with the last third of my life staring me in the face-a birthday on the 22nd to boot-well, who wouldn't want that??

thank you deeply for all you do...truly, you are my lucky heart-shaped rock on an endless shoreline of possibility. you have shown me the way to SEE my "happy" as I follow your's and your little lu's footprints in the sand.


At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Ruth said...

Thanks for putting this recipe up! I look forward to making them!

At 6:36 PM, Anonymous said...

I am always looking for healthier options when it comes to crackers... so if I can make them gluten-free, it's even better! Thanks for the recipe and please, don't stop baking. My two-year-old is also obsessed with the scale. He plays with it as soon as it's on the kitchen counter... I just love how children start cooking, don't you?

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Chef Fresco said...

Crackers - especially the ones with lots of seeds - are among my favorite things to snack on. Thanks for this recipe. I've never tried making them from scratch. Nicely done!

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

I've been meaning to try a recipe with quinoa and now I have a great reason to! These look really good!

At 7:24 PM, Anonymous molly said...

Shauna, these are gorgeous.

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Momat32 said...

I'm excited to make these. And grateful that the recipe does not call for eggs since they are one of the things that does not agree with my body. Thanks for all your experimenting and I'm grateful that you will never stop.

At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Julia Sarver said...

Wow! Those crackers look amazing. I've been GF for 3+ years now and am just starting to get into the baking aspect. I tried baking with mixes when I was first diagnosed, but I was always so disappointed with the results. But these crackers look delicious and doable! Thanks for the recipe, Shauna.

At 4:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Those would taste great with hummus. I have been searching for good hummus recipes. Hummus does not have to be made with chick peas. I am thinking lima because I read that lima beans purifies something that eating hot dogs and smoked salmon dose to the body. I am trying to sneak lima beans into my kids.

Take care,


At 5:43 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I've found myself "corn wafers" which are like rice cakes, just made with corn instead. I can literally munch the whole pack in one sitting, a very bad thing. I imagine these will be a somewhat healthier option though. I'll just have to find a good substitute for the butter. Dairy = asthma for me I'm afraid.

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Melanie Heavenly said...

These look amazing! I just wish I had the time to make these for my partner, who is very allergic to gluten. He'd love them.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger The Chatty Housewife said...

These look so so good! I am so thankful that you also state the measurements in amounts, not only weights. I don't have a scale yet.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Melanie Tyler Kanz said...

"Toddler help is optional." Love that! When my kids were all little one of their favorite things was to park at the kitchen counter on chairs and "mix, mix". Thanks for bringing up the memory. I'm looking forward to trying out these crackers. I love quinoa!

At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Paige Orloff said...

Um, YUM. These look delicious. And in addition to rustic, I'm partial to wabi-sabi. There's beauty in all those rough edges. xx

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Michelle said...

Wow - these sound interesting. I'll have to give them a try. I like crackers but get awfully tired of rice crackers.

At 10:34 PM, Blogger Renee said...

Is it evil to ask about non-gluten free options? If it's permissible I would like to know what I could replace the potato starch and xanthum gum with?

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Sho said...


I just love the comment from Renee regarding the replacement/conversion of xantham gum and potato starch. You know you are a great cook when the gluten-eating world is reading your recipes and trying to convert them. It is about time that gluten-free food is properly recognized!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You gooooo Renee Girl!


At 4:14 PM, Blogger Caterina Giglio said...

this looks really yummy, I have to try it! thanks so very much for this!

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Deborah M said...

To Renee,
I believe if you make these with wheat flour, you don't need the xanthan gum, but why ruin a good thing with wheat? quinoa is much healthier and tastier.

I can't wait to try this recipe for my next party. Thanks Shauna!

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Julia said...

I have been substituting grapeseed oil for butter occaisionally and it might work here too. It has a buttery-ish aroma and flavor good for baking (I use it for the oil called for in GF bread mixes. Thumbs up from celiac nephews.) Die-hard butter fans may not appreciate it, also it will change the texture, but if you are dairy-intolerant you might give it a whirl.

At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Mel in Tampa said...

I pulled out my brand new-never been used food processor and gave this a try. They were wonderful!!! Thank you!!

At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Julia said...

These look AMAZING!

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous bigjobsboard said...

Wow. The recipe is super easy to follow. Thanks for posting this one. my kids will love these!

At 1:44 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Did anyone else have a problem with them falling apart? They taste SO delicious I want them to work!! I followed the weights religiously, only subbing amaranth flour for the quinoa flour as I was unable to get hold of any. How thick did you roll them out? It doesn't indicate in the recipe how thick they should be or how big the pan is - maybe I simply didn't make them thick enough?

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Seasons said...

I am so happy to have found your Facebook site, and then the blog! Thanks so much for a wonderful meeting place for us gluten-free folks! I am collecting your recipes for when I can go back to my own creations, right now I am losing my weight (so far, 42 lbs. gone, in 3 1/2 months!)on my program, finally, results! Thanks again! Love the way you write!

At 7:26 PM, Blogger K G B said...

Mm, i made this but substituted cooked cornmeal for quinoa & tossed in some olives; totally delish.
I never would have thought to make my own crackers before celiac diagnosis--- totally worth it though!

At 11:15 PM, Anonymous Term papers said...

This is a fantastic, yummy to see this blog, good food, O i feel hungry now, let me have one please, Thanks for share this Yummy post.


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