As you've probably noticed by now, I'm sort of obsessed with attempting homemade versions of items I might otherwise buy prepackaged at the store - from graham crackers and croissants to puff pastry and pop-tarts, I've tried quite a few. A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for homemade Wheat Thins crackers on 6 Bittersweets, and realized it came from a cookbook I already owned - the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book (proof that my cookbooks are seriously under-utilized). It was inevitable I'd try them eventually, and because I'm prone to forgetfulness I decided to do it sooner rather than later. The funny thing is, I never buy Wheat Thins at the store because we aren't really cracker eaters. That said, I have tasted them, and I just had to know how this homemade version compared.
This recipe couldn't be easier and you'll love the short ingredient list. I'm constantly amazed that you can take a few simple ingredients and turn them into something so terrific; I think it's one of the big reasons I love baking so much. The only slightly tricky part of making these crackers is rolling out the dough, and if you've ever rolled dough before you'll likely find this one pretty easy to work with. As long as you keep your work surface lightly floured and turn the dough to ensure it's not sticking, you shouldn't have a problem.
The crackers bake quickly, and you can fit a ton of them on each sheet since they don't spread at all (meaning you'll probably only need to bake 2 sheets even though the recipe makes a lot of crackers). You want to take them out when they're brown and crisp, but keep in mind they will crisp up even further as they cool. The cooling happens in a matter of minutes, which means I didn't burn my tongue when I tried one less than 5 minutes after it emerged from the oven. The verdict? I was impressed - King Arthur Flour really created a terrific homemade version of Wheat Thins. The flavor is spot on as is the appearance. As I mentioned, I'm not even a big fan of crackers, but these disappeared more quickly than I'd like to admit.
Homemade Wheat Thins
from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Cookbook
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for topping
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Add the flour, sugar, salt and paprika to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl. Then, using a pastry blender, mix the butter into the dry ingredients thoroughly. Combine the water and vanilla in a small measuring cup. Add to the butter/flour mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms. (My dough was still pretty dry so I added slightly more water before it came together.)
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered with a towel so they don't dry out. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle. Lift the dough and turn it as you roll to ensure it's not sticking. You want to roll the dough as thin as possible, try to make sure it's 1/16-inch thick at most. If you want all of your crackers to be perfect, trim the edges of the dough so you have a rectangle with even sides. Use a pizza cutter to cut the rectangle into squares about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide.
Transfer the dough squares to the prepared baking sheets. You don't need to leave much space in between the crackers - they don't spread at all in the oven. Sprinkle the squares lightly with salt. Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. Save all of your scraps under the towel; reroll them all at once to create a final batch of crackers. (I covered the baking sheets with towels while I rolled the rest of the dough so the cut crackers wouldn't dry out.)
Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, until crisp and browned, about 5-10 minutes. Check the crackers at 5 minutes, and if some of the thinner ones are browning too quickly, remove them to a plate and return the remaining crackers to the oven to finish baking. The crackers can burn quickly so you want to keep a close eye on them. Once brown and crisp, transfer to a plate to cool. Store the crackers in an airtight container.