Traditional soda crackers

Yield: 100 servings

Measure Ingredient
1½ teaspoon Dry active yeast (1 package
Contains 2-1/4 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon Sugar
1½ cup Warm water
4½ cup All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 tablespoon Water for disolving the
Baking soda
2 tablespoons Plus 2 ts buttermilk
2 teaspoons Salt
¼ cup Shortening
Salt for the tops (opt.)

"The incomparable lightness of traditional soda crackers results from the unusual techniques used in making them. Making soda crackers is easy, but it takes a relatively long time. The initial rise is 20 to 30 hours, which allows the dough to increase in volume without developing a pronounced yeast flavor. Since the dough will ferment to some extent during this time, alkaline soda is then added to neutralize the acids produced by that fermentation. The dough is then allowed to rest 3 to 4 hours to relax the gluten so the crakers will not be tough and chewy. Next, the dough is rolled in layers. It is definitely worth the extra planning it takes to make these crakers.

If you take a few minutes to get started on a Friday morning, the dough can have its long rest until the next day. Then you can finish the mixing and let the dough rest again while you run your weekend errands, baking the crackers in time for Saturday dinner.

450~ F 9 to 11 minutes

In a small bowl, combine the yeast with the sugar and warm water. Set aside until the yeast is fully dissolved, 5 to 10 minutes.

Measure 3-½ cups of the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast mixture and mix well. Place plastic wrap over the bowl and let the dough rest in a warm place for 20 to 30 hours. The plastic wrap keeps the dough from drying out during this long period.

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the Tablespoon water.

Place the baking soda mixture, buttermilk, salt, and shortening in the bowl with the dough and mix well. Mix in as much of the remaining ½ to 1 cup flour as necessary to form a stiff, nonsticky dough.

Knead for a minute or two and then let the dough rest, covered with the plastic wrap, for 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for another few minutes, until it is smooth and springy to the touch. Place it in a large, clean, lightly oiled bowl and let it rest for another 3 or 4 hours, covered with plastic wrap.

At last you are ready to roll. Preheat the oven to 450~ F. Punch the dough down and knead a few strokes. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions for rolling. Rolling may be difficult at first due to the elasticity of the dough. Give yourself a head start on the rolling by flattening the dough with your hands. Place your rolling pin in the center of the dough and begin. Soon the dough will relax and begin to roll easily.

On a floured surface or pastry cloth, roll out to a rectangle approximately ¼ inch thick and position so the long edge runs horizontally in front of you. Fold the left third of the dough over the center third. Likewise, fold the right third over the center. The dough is now in 3 layers with the seam running vertically. Give the dough a quarter turn so the seam now runs horizontally. Roll out again to a rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Fold and turn the dough again as in the first step. You are now ready for the final rolling.

Roll the dough out thinner this time, about 1/16 to ⅛ inch thick. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly and evenly with salt and roll over it lightly with the rolling pin. With a sharp knife, cut into 2-inch squares and place each one on an ungreased baking sheet. Prick each square 2 or 3 times with the tines of a fork.

Bake for 8 minutes. Turn and bake an additional 1 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack. Yield: 95-100.

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