In the dog house: Seedy and spiced red lentil crackers
I’ve been sleeping on the couch a lot lately. It’s not as though I don’t have a quaint little bedroom at the back of my sprawling apartment with a window overlooking the river and a newly acquired antique bed frame that I suffered over until in a burst of nervous energy I drove back to the antiques market and bought it. I may not have a proper mattress for it yet (it requires a non-standard ‘standard’ size called a three-quarter), and so my old mattress is precariously pushed up against the headboard. But it spoke to me as things that are visually unique, well-crafted and carry a history often do. I frequently find myself standing in the doorway in a daydreamy state, admiring it from afar.
The bedroom may have the bed frame, but the living room has the allure of a constantly roaring fire – the sole source of heat in the apartment. Well, to be honest, it’s a gas fireplace so it actually doesn’t roar, but silently sends up shoots of flame from behind fake, though surprisingly real-looking, logs. But like many people, I prefer to sleep in a cooler room so the fireplace isn’t the draw.
Rather, it’s the excitement and energy with which I have begun to tackle my hobbies that drives me to the couch instead of my bed each night. I have stripped the university library of their baking science books. There are bread books open and scattered across every flat surface of the kitchen and dining room, and some even teetering atop flour scoops, and tart pans, pages gritty with flour and rumpled by careless drops of water. There have been evenings stretching into the wee hours of the morning where I have awoken every half-hour to turn dough as part of a bread experiment which I had no hopes of success. And I’ve spent countless minutes sitting entranced in front of the window on my oven, marvelling at the wonder that is oven-spring (my previous oven did not have a window so this is a real treat for me).
Fatigue has become an enemy, slowing me down and muddling my brain, leaving me no choice but to hang up my apron for the night. But I am so eager to continue that I feel abuzz with an urgent need for the night to pass quickly. Collapsing onto the couch with flour still caked to my fingers gives me the feeling that I’m not really going to bed, but merely taking a moment to rejuvenate. No need for such complications as blankets, sheets and pillowcases. My large couch lures me into a quick, deep sleep and before I know it day has broken and I’m ready to take on a new project, or to continue coddling the one from the previous evening.
I’ve followed this routine over a stretch of three days as I attempted to coax out a satisfactory red lentil cracker recipe for the Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge. 180 crackers later, I think I’ve come up with a pretty addictive (if not colourful!) little cracker, the kind that you sit down with a handful, and then find yourself with only a blurry memory of having gone back to the cupboard to retrieve the rest, evidenced only by the empty box.
Don’t feel daunted by the time it takes to make these crackers (three days). As with many things, time bestows quality and depth of flavour to these crackers. You can easily skip the refrigeration step, but I promise that your crackers will taste better if you don’t.
Seedy and Spiced Red Lentil Crackers
(Makes 48 crackers 1.5” in diameter)
1 1/2 oz split red lentils
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 oz pumpkin seeds
1/2 oz sunflower seeds
1/4 oz (1 tbsp) sesame seeds
1/4 oz (1 tbsp) golden flax seeds
2 1/2 oz spelt flour
1 3/4 oz whole wheat flour
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/8th tsp chipotle chilli powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 oz water
Day 1: Measure, rinse and soak the lentils for 24 hours.
Day 2: Drain and rinse the lentils. While they are draining, toast the seeds in a dry skillet until they become fragrant and start to pop. Place the seeds in a small food processor and grind until pebbly. Once the lentils have drained, mix them with the olive oil and honey. In another bowl, mix together the remaining dry ingredients and the ground, toasted seeds. Add the dry ingredients to the lentils. Add the water a little at a time. You want the dough to be dry and manageable, not sticky. If you find you don’t need all the water, then don’t use it. If your dough is too wet, add a bit more flour. It’s ok.
Split the dough in two, roll it into balls and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
Day 3: When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 425F. Remove the dough from the fridge. Flour your work surface. Flatten the ball of dough out onto the floured counter. Using the plastic wrap as a buffer between the dough and rolling pin, roll the dough out thin – about 1/8th of an inch. The thinner you roll the dough, the crispier and more delicious your crackers will be. Conversely, if you like dense, chewier crackers, leave them thick.
Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out the crackers and place them on a lined sheet pan. You can also just cut the dough into squares with a knife, if you wish.
Want super-salty crackers? Sprinkle them with a flaky sea salt.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning the pan once at the half-way point. You want the edges to brown nicely for a crisp finish. Let cool on a wire rack for an hour. They will crisp further as they cool.