The other day I had a yen for a cracker — a crunchy whole wheat cracker that would be both healthy and have good flavor. The ones I’ve tried from my local health food store taste like sawdust, and the ingredients list on crackers I’ve found in the supermarket left a bad taste in my mouth even before I could try them.
According to renowned American food writer Michael Pollan, one should never buy a product with a health claim on the label (such as “no preservatives” or “high in fiber”) because in most cases it’s a trick the manufacturers use to divert the consumer’s attention away from other, more negative aspects of the product.
I second that emotion. Consider the new sausage product sample I received yesterday, which stated on its packaging cover that the product has “reduced saturated fat and contains no MSG, trans fats, gluten or phosphates.” The ingredients listed on the back of the pack included unidentified sugars and sodium nitrate. While sodium nitrate — a common preservative and coloring agent in franks, sausages and other cured meats — is a chemical found naturally in many vegetables including spinach, lettuce, cauliflower and beets, it also commonly combines with amines in protein-rich foods to form carcinogenic nitrosamines.
I’ve never seen a cracker label containing sodium nitrate, but store-bought crackers are often high in sodium, made of dubious whole wheat flour — in Israel, ‘whole wheat flour’ by law can be processed white flour with added bran — with undisclosed fat (the term “vegetable fat” can also be trans fat) and a host of artificial flavorings.
You don’t have to settle for second best. It’s easier, healthier, and far quicker than you can imagine to make homemade crackers from just a few easy-to-find ingredients. Based on ground almond flour (found in health food stores), these gluten-free crackers are ready in minutes. Vary the seasonings if you like.
Black and White Crackers (makes about 30)
These protein-rich crackers also contain nigella seeds, which supposedly “heal everything but death,” according to the Koran. Substitute black sesame seeds if desired, or add three or more tablespoons of za’atar instead of the seeds. If using za’atar, reduce the salt by half a teaspoon.
- 1 1/2 cups ground almond flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup nigella or black sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon liquid coconut oil or olive oil
- 1 large egg
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
- In one bowl, mix the almond flour, salt, (regular) sesame and nigella seeds.
- Whisk coconut oil and egg together with a wire whisk. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients using a fork, then knead with fingers to form a smooth dough.
- Divide dough in half and shape each half into a rectangle. Roll out each of the rectangles between two sheets of parchment paper until the dough is very thin.
- Remove the top paper and place the bottom sheet with the dough on a cookie sheet. Cut with a cookie cutter or use a sharp knife to slice through the dough to form finger-sized crackers. Do not separate them.
- Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden.
- Let cool in the pan and gently separate the crackers. Keep in a hermetically sealed jar.
Adapted from “Gluten Free, Sugar Free” by Phyllis Glazer (Korim Publishers)