Keith Okazaki and I have been baking together, even though our kitchens are miles apart.
We met online — OK, that didn’t sound right. We met when he emailed in search of a recipe for the Hilo Creme cracker, that beloved island favorite that went away when the Hilo Macaroni Factory closed years ago. All due respect to Diamond Head Bakery, but Okazaki says its version of the cream cracker just doesn’t do it for him. The Hilo Creme is, he wrote, "what I consider the greatest cracker ever."
I’d never made a cracker. Neither had Okazaki, but he’d been experimenting with biscotti and figured he could manage something thin and crunchy. So I sent him a recipe for a vanilla cracker, and the baking began. Or rather, he started baking. I waited until he had a recipe he thought was close before I jumped in. So really, he did all the heavy lifting. Thanks, Keith.
Making a cracker is much like making a cookie except that you use little or no leavening, roll the dough out very thin and bake until quite firm. Okazaki also suggests turning off the oven and leaving the crackers inside for another 15 minutes for better crunch.
My first test of the recipe included some baking powder and baking soda. The flavor was good, but it puffed up like a cookie. I tried other batches with less leavening and one with none. I suggest no leavening, just a pinch of salt.
I’m not calling this a cracker, as the texture is not quite that of the commercial version. If you bit into one before I told you what it was supposed to be, you’d probably identify it as a thin, crunchy cookie.
To get a more traditional cookie out of this, add baking powder and skip the second "bake" (see the variation at the end of the recipe). It will be like shortbread but not as flaky.
Decorating tip: To dress these up, use a small cookie cutter in a shape such as a flower and press partway into the center of each piece. You’ll get a sort of embossed design.
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar, then blend in cream and vanilla.
Combine flour and salt; add gradually to creamed mixture. Mix until a soft dough forms.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with 2-inch round cookie cutter. If desired, press a smaller design partway into each cookie using a smaller cutter (heart, flower, animal shape, etc.). Place on baking sheet (cookies will not spread, so they can be placed close together). Bake 15 minutes on middle rack of oven.
Turn oven off and leave crackers in oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until firm. Let cool on baking sheet. Makes 18 to 20. (Recipe is easily doubled.)
Nutritional information unavailable.
Variation: To make a softer cream-flavored cookie, add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to the flour. Roll dough into balls and flatten. Bake until light brown, about 15 minutes, remove from oven and cool on racks.
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