Bake your own thyme crackers

For a long time, I’ve wanted to try baking my own savoury snacks as a way of avoiding some packaging waste. Months ago I found a great basic cracker recipe in German over on ZERO WASTE MÜNCHEN that I’ve now finally had time to try out. Spot the missing cracker in my picture, which has been eaten and passed the taste test!

home-made, rough-edged crackers on a black baking sheet
No time but plenty of thyme!

Next time, I’ll roll the dough out a bit thinner. I rolled it to 4mm which looked about right before baking, but of course it rose in the oven. So, for those of you who don’t have enough German to read the original recipe, these are the ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour (NB Germany doesn’t seem to have self-rasing flour, but you could perhaps use that and skip the baking powder!)
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 50g butter
  • 7 desert spoons water
  • (Plus: salt & herbs for topping, and more water for brushing on)

I tipped my ingredients into a bowl and used a knife to cut the butter pieces into the flour, then added water and started squidging it all together, until I had a crumbly dough that just about held together. I wrapped the dough in my baking sheet and put it in the fridge to rest – for a couple of hours as it turned out.

Later, I turned my dough out onto a floured surface and rolled it out, to about 4-5mm, but next time I’ll aim for 2-3mm. I stabbed it all over with a fork, sprinked salt and dried thyme onto it, and then cut it into pieces before brushing the pieces with water and then placing them onto the lined baking tray.

I put these in the oven at 160 deg celcius for about 12 minutes. Next time I’ll increase the temperature and aim for 10 mins but I was being cautious ‘cos it’s a fan oven. I might also double the quantity of dough and make two varieties, because it doesn’t make very many crackers.

I might add some poppy seeds into the pastry mixture, or put sesame seeds on top, or of course I could use different herbs on top, but thyme works really well.

It is not at all complicated, but what puts me off pastry work is the time it takes. First I need to clear & clean enough worktop to roll out the dough, and then also to clear space in the fridge to let it rest, and then after the rolling-out I have to clear up all the flour-y mess! In this case it rather conveniently took me the 12 mins whilst the crackers were in the oven, to wash and clean everything up. If only I had a freezer, I could maybe make lots of dough at once and save time by freezing some for future baking, but that’s another story!

Speaking of other stories: my baking sheet is a plastic-covered thingy that I’ve owned for some time, and of course I like that I’m not creating lots of baking parchment waste. On the other hand, it will one day become plastic waste so when that happens, I might prefer to use unbleached parchment paper. I already like to use the “If you care” range for occasions when I need to cut the paper to size: it’s easy to find in the organic grocery stores in Berlin.

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It works! My successful vinegar/Meine effektive Essig

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Here it is, my finished homemade vinegar, in a bottle donated by a neighbour. It is no longer an experiment but a useful way to make something that I need, out of rubbish. When bottling it, I had a little extra vinegar that didn’t fit in my bottle. I poured it onto some grass growing in patio cracks, but the grass survived and it wasn’t a great herbicide. Perhaps it isn’t a very strong acid, but we have hard water which causes limescale everywhere, and my homemade vinegar de-scaled my kettle beautifully.

It also did a grand job on my kitchen sink, when combined with bicarb of soda:

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Before cleaning with my vinegar
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After a quick clean!

In German:

Hier ist meine fertige, hausgemachte Essig in einer Flasche, dass von einer Nachbarin gespendet ist. Es ist jetzt keine Experimente, sondern eine gute Methode, um etwas Nützliches aus Müll zu machen. Ich habe mehr Essig gemacht als man sieht in die Flasche: ich habe es als Herbizid probiert und auf Gras in die Terrasse Risse gegossen. Ich glaube, dass es keine starke Säure ist weil das Gras überlebt. Wir haben hartes Wasser, die Kalkablagerungen überall verursacht, und mein hausgemachte Essig reinigte unseres Wasserkochers schön.

Mit Natron kombiniert, reinigte es auch die Küchenspüle wunderbar.

An unpackaged haul/Verpackung freie Lebensmittel

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I hope they last a long time!

Here is what I brought back from a recent shopping trip to Original Unverpackt here in Berlin. I took my own tins and tubs, and some bags to fill. Every so often, I make a special trip there and fill a shopping trolley bag with dry goods to keep us going… I wish it were easier for me to reach as it’s nowhere near my home, but I always look forward to shopping there.

In German:

Das Foto zeigt Waren, dass ich vor kurzem bei Original Unverpackt in Berlin gekauft habe. Ich habe meine eigenen Dosen und Beuteln zu füllen gebracht. Oft, mache ich eine Exkursion dorthin und fülle ich einen Einkaufsroller mit trockenen Waren die eine lange Zeit dauern. Ich wünschte, es war einfacher um zu erreichen, denn es ist nicht in der Nähe von zu Hause bei mir, aber ich freue mich immer, dort einzukaufen.

An experiment: homemade vinegar (Ein Experiment: hausgemachten Essig)

After processing so many apples from our two apple trees, I felt rather bad about wasting all the peels and cores. Fortunately, I found inspiration from the amazing zero waste chef, whose blog explains how to make apple scrap vinegar.

Here is my batch in its second week of brewing (after its daily morning stir):

apple scraps gone brown, in opaque liquid which will become vinegar

A cut-up t-shirt and a drawstring from some old pyjamas make the essential  “lid” to keep flies out, but let it breathe. It smells a bit but I don’t have to worry about explosions!

In German:

Nach der Verarbeitung von so viele Äpfel aus unseren beiden Apfelbäume, hatte ich ein schlechtes Gewissen über die Verschwendung von Schalen und Kerne. Glücklicherweise fand ich Inspiration von die zero waste chef, deren Blog erklärt, wie man Apfelessig macht.

Das Bild zeigt mein Experiment in der zweiten Woche des brauens (nach seinem täglichen Morgen rühren).

Ein Stück altes T-Shirt und ein Zugband aus alten Pyjamas machen den “Deckel” um Fliegen weg zu halten. Obwohl es ein bisschen riecht, dieser Deckel lässt das Experiment atmen, und ich muss nicht über Explosionen sorgen!

A garden harvest! (Eine Gartenernte!)

The last 2 weeks saw us outside picking apples and plums then chopping them at the garden table:

lots of apples and a few plums in bowls on a garden table
Just the beginnings of our harvest!

Apart from the plum crumble which was so good I made it twice, we produced:

  • stewed apples (some frozen)
  • stewed plums (all eaten)
  • lemony apple butter
  • garlicky apple and plum chutney
  • gingery apple and plum chutney

Then gave most of it away! Recipes came from the excellent Jams Preserves and Chutneys handbook, by Marguerite Patten.

 

a steel apple slicer
Essential equipment!

In German:

Die letzten 2 Wochen waren wir draußen. Wir haben Äpfel und Pflaumen gepfluckt, und sind am Gartentisch gesessen um die zu hacken. Die Pflaumencrumble war so gut, dass ich es zweimal gemacht habe. Wir haben auch produziert:

  • Apfelkompott (gefroren)
  • Pflaumenkompott (alle gegessen)
  • zitronig “Apple butter”
  • Knoblauch Apfel- und Pflaumenchutney
  • Ingwer Apfel- und Pflaumenchutney

Danach wurde die meisten verschenkt! Rezepte kamen aus der ausgezeichneten Jams Preserves and Chutneys handbook, von Marguerite Patten.

Homemade crunchy plum crumble

plums on a little plum tree

We grew the plums, we picked, washed and de-stoned them.

I laid the plum halves on the dish, skin side down and sprinkled them with sugar. Then I made a topping out of:

85g plain flour

80g butter

– mixed into crumbs

4 tablespoons brown (muscovado) sugar

1 small handful medium ground semolina

– stirred into the mix

And I baked the whole lot at 190 degrees Celsius for 15 mins: lovely crunchy crumble!

half a plum crumble left in the baking dish
It disappeared too quickly for me to get a photo!