My book group makes the most amazing meals. There are never any assignments; creativity runs wild. One week Brigitte brought tomato-basil soup with homemade croutons, Lynne contributed a quinoa-feta-cranberry salad in a bowl lined with kale, Elaine made a rum cake, or maybe that was Diane. Beth brought rice balls filled with melting cheese, Nancy brought a claypot filled to the top with her macaroni & cheese, and these are just the dishes I remember! A few months ago, I took the time to write down a particularly memorable meal that included a roasted eggplant appetizer; spinach salad with roasted beets, pomegranates, red onions, and golden raisins; sweet corn pudding; red onion with grated Jarlsberg cheese and served on whole-grain crackers; squash soup; and chocolate-covered strawberries. Once in a while, we all bring salad. Or dessert. It happens. There is always a selection of wines, and often a scrumptious dip with crackers. So today we’re talking about crackers.
Looking at the brand names, it’s nearly impossible to tell which crackers are nutritious. Who would guess that 10 Ritz Crackers Whole Wheat contain less than a single gram of fiber? Or 4 Keebler’s Townhouse Bistro Multigrain crackers, or 10 Nabisco Wheatsworth Stone Ground Wheat crackers? Less than 1 gram of fiber per serving. Even Late July Organic Classic Saltines, though they’re made with “organic wheat flour,” contain zero grams of fiber.
Which crackers make the cut? Ak-Mak 100% Whole Wheat Stone Ground Sesame Crackers, Back to Nature Harvest Whole Wheats, Nabisco Triscuit Thin Crisps (not the reduced fat ones), Trader Joe’s Multigrain Savory Thins, WASA Multigrain Crispbread, Trader Joe’s Woven Wheat Wafers, RyVita Rye & Oat Bran Whole Grain Rye Crispbread (these pack 6 grams of fiber/serving), and Mary’s Gone Crackers (my own favorite).
What gives the crackers their fiber? Whole-grain flour. The very first ingredient usually contains the word “whole.” Like whole wheat, or 100% organic whole wheat, or whole-grain rye flour. Also brown rice, which is a whole grain. You are looking for either “whole [grain name]” or “brown rice,” and it has to be the first ingredient.
Nabisco Wheat Thins 5 Grain Crunch and Keebler Townhouse Wheat crackers, each with less than 1 gram of fiber per serving, list “enriched flour” first, and “whole wheat flour” second. Second place doesn’t count. Nabisco Premium Multigrain Saltine Crackers have 0 grams of fiber per serving, and list “enriched flour” first, “whole grains” second, and “whole wheat flour” third. Second and third don’t count. Neither does “rice flour,” the first ingredient in Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins. You would have to eat 16 crackers to get a single gram of fiber.
Dare Breton Multigrain and Kashi TLC Crackers Original 7 Grain may sound authentic, but the first ingredient in both is “wheat flour.” Don’t let that fool you. Wheat flour is not the same as whole wheat flour. Don’t be enticed by “enriched flour” either, which would not have required enriching if it had not been stripped of the germ and bran first. “Wheat flour” doesn’t count, and neither does “organic wheat flour.”
I found a smart comparison at www.environmentalnutrition.com, which might be a good resource for people who eat lots of crackers or are just plain curious. Generally, I would say to avoid crackers with fewer than 3 grams of fiber per serving. Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers, and Hain All-Natural Wheatettes list whole wheat flour first, but they have 2 grams of fiber per serving. Not so bad, but you can do better.
A post about crackers wouldn’t be complete without encouraging you to make them yourself. Making crackers is a great family activity. It’s been a while since I made them myself, but I can say that they were delicious, and then they were gone. Here’s one nice recipe, and I’ll have another one for you next week:
“Four-Seed Snapper Crackers” (adapted from Peter Reinhart, LA Times website):
- Heat oven to 300F.
- 2. Grind 1/8 c. sunflower seeds and 1/8 c. pumpkin seeds into powder in a blender, coffee grinder or mortar & pestle. Stop before they turn into seed butter.
- Combine sunflower and pumpkin seeds with 1/8 c. flax meal, 1/8 c. sesame seeds, 1 c. whole-grain spelt flour, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. honey, 1 ¼ Tbsp. olive oil, and 3/8 c. water.
- Mix ingredients to form a firm ball of dough. It should not be sticky. Knead dough by hand on a lightly floured surface for 30 sec. Add more flour if necessary to keep it slightly tacky but not sticky. Line baking pans with parchment paper.
- Divide dough into two pieces. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll each as thinly as possible, to nearly paper thin. Keep lifting the dough so it doesn’t stick to the surface, and dust more flour underneath if necessary.
- Transfer dough to baking pan, and cut into rectangles with the tip of a very sharp knife.
- Combine the egg with ¼ c. water, and brush crackers lightly with egg wash. Sprinkle with more sesame seeds, and bake approx 25-30 min.
- These crackers will be dry, crisp, and golden-brown. They will not spread or rise in the oven. This recipe makes 3 dozen crackers, and each cracker contains 1 gram of fiber, which is a lot.