Homemade Saltines

My first attempt, starting from a recipe found online and an excellent photo essay in the Time-Life Cookies and Crackers volume (which surprisingly, did not include a recipe):  I adapted it to whole wheat, and enriched with butter in place of shortening, and added the malt powder and pepper.  

These are pretty darn good, and not that difficult to make.  The floured layers make laminations that function like the butter rolled into flaky pastry, to separate layers and make a more delicate crisp cracker.  Without the flour laminations, a plain yeast bread of the same thickness would break your teeth.


1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 cup warm  water
1/2 teaspoon dimalt (not malt sweetener, but enzymatically active malt) (optional)

350 grams hard white wheat, milled very fine with 1 teaspoon black peppercorns


2 1/4 cups all purpose or bread flour plus 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix 275 grams or 1 3/4 cups flour with the yeast, malt and water; cover and keep in a warm place, and let rise until doubled in bulk; at room temperature, this should take about 16-24 hours.

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (not for leavening; it neutralizes the acids from long fermentation so the crackers are not sourdough)
1/2 tablespoon water

Dissolve soda in the water in a small bowl.  

4 teaspoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons barley malt powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Stir these into the soda and water.

1/4 cup cold butter, grated

Mix the soda, grated butter, and sponge together with the remaining flour (about 75 grams or 1/2 cup) and knead well.  Let rise again another 3-4 hours, covered.

Preheat oven to 550F (no, that's not a typo).  

Punch down and knead lightly.  Roll out to 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle very lightly and evenly with the flour.  Fold over in thirds.  Roll out again 1/4 inch thick, sprinkle with flour, and fold over again.  This will be the last rolling, so cut the folded dough into three equal pieces.  Roll it directly out on a nonstick liner for your baking sheet, if you have one, and roll it out to 1/16-1/8 inch thick.  Thinner is better, and giving the dough some extra time to relax halfway through this last rolling will help roll it thinner.

salt for tops, to taste (optional)

Sprinkle lightly with salt, roll again briefly to press it in.   Dock and use a rolling cutter to mark the lines between the crackers  but do not separate them fully.  Slide the liner onto the baking sheet, and bake 8 minutes.   (see the cracker primer if this explanation doesn't make sense).

Pull from the oven, separate the crackers at the prepared seams, and flip them over, and let cool that way while waiting for the rest to bake.  After the last crackers are baked, turn the oven to 250 degrees, opening the door a crack to let it cool down a little.  Return the crackers to the oven, turned upside down and piled on top of each other if need be, and let them dry out for another 1-2 hours at this low heat.  This is the easiest way to get them fully dry and crisp without scorching.

Because I really like these, I often triple the recipe, and I use buttermilk powder instead of buttermilk since I don't always have the real thing on hand; plus I've started using ammonium carbonate for leavening to lighten the sodium a bit.  Here's my current version as of 2023:

3/4 teaspoon instant yeast

3 cups warm  water
1 1/2 teaspoons dimalt

1050 grams hard white wheat
1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Mix 825 grams flour with the yeast, malt and water.....

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon buttermilk powder
2 tablespoons barley malt powder
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons ammonium carbonate

1/3 cup water

Whisk together to get the lumps out

1 cup cold butter, grated

Works well to grate frozen cubes of butter and every 1/2 inch or so, collect the grated shavings and add to the bowl of dough while mixing on very slow speed.

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