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Flatbread Crackers and Eat Your Books

 John and I started working for the Joy of Cooking in the fall of 2010. I had just graduated from college that spring, and John and I decided to work for his family's business. Neither of us had ever thought we'd find ourselves in such a line of work, but Joy has a way of sucking you in.

Since that fall, we've launched a new website, built an app, tested hundreds upon hundreds of recipes, developed I don't know how many more recipes, taken thousands of photographs (many, it should be said, are not very good), and moved across the country.

Now we're starting the process of revising the book for the next major edition, and, as we work deep in the minute folds and recesses of the book, we're trying to keep the bigger picture in mind all the time.

We want not only to keep the "soul" of the book intact--the life and vigor that Irma and Marion breathed into it all those years ago--but also to keep the book relevant. Someone wise once told me that what doesn't breathe and change dies. There are lots of folks who are nostalgic for older versions of Joy. Maybe their mother had the 1953 edition or the baby blue 1964 edition. To them, that is their Joy. They take ownership of it, and feel, for many reasons, that their copy of Joy is the best one, and there's nothing wrong with that.

But for us, Joy is a living book. The day we stop thinking about how to improve it and update it is the day it dies. Irma made Joy her life's work, as did Marion. We aren't content to sit on what they gave us. We want to build on it.

We are always looking for ways to make Joy more accessible to you. The app was one. Part of what it does is open up the book and let the contents breathe a little. But we're not done.

A few months ago, a friend recommended Eat Your Books, an online service that allows you to catalogue your cookbook collection and search it digitally. For us, it's an incredible resource. When we want to find a good recipe for fresh raspberries, all we have to do is type "raspberries" into the search box, and any recipe containing raspberries in any of the cookbooks we own is immediately made apparent. It saves us the trouble of searching through countless indexes and reveals fascinating recipes from cookbooks we'd forgotten that we have.

Eat Your Books graciously agreed to index the recipes on our website in exchange for helping spread the word about their site. We feel it's fitting--a friend of ours let us in on it, and we're passing it on to you. It does cost something to join, but EYB has given us a voucher code for a free 3-month trial membership for all our readers and fans. The code is JOY14.

The three most recent editions of the Joy of Cooking, plus the website, are indexed on EYB, not to mention the multitude of cookbooks they've indexed (if you own it, they have probably indexed it). We like it the most because it promotes the use of actual books--not just digital content.

The recipe below is one that I've been hooked on for years. It's my go-to cracker recipe for parties for several reasons. One, they taste incredible (not an exaggeration). Two, everyone will flip out because you made crackers from scratch! And three, they're actually easy to make because you don't have to cut them into perfect little squares, which takes way longer than you think it should. (Side note: we have a friend--the same one who told us about EYB--who wrote a book on crackers. After trying several of the awesome recipes, I determined that homemade crackers are definitely better than store-bought, but allow yourself a big chunk of time to cut them out. But then, we don't own a pizza cutter, so that might make a difference...)

You may be tempted to skip the resting stages. Don't. It's only 20 minutes total, and it makes rolling out the dough super easy. You definitely want to give all that fabulous gluten plenty of time to chill out. Further, using the parchment as a tool to help you roll the dough is really magic. Even more magical are the pre-cut sheets of parchment paper that don't tend to roll up on you.

Remember: this recipe and all past and future recipes on this site are or will be indexed on Eat Your Books. The 3-month trial voucher code is JOY14. Happy hunting!

Disclaimer: We did not receive monetary compensation by Eat Your Books to mention them in this post. All opinions contained in this post are our own.

Other articles you might enjoy: Leek Dip, Texas Caviar, Hummus

Olive Oil Flatbread Crackers
Makes 4 large cracker sheets (serves a crowd with dip)

Note: My favorite spice blend for these crackers is za'atar: sesame, thyme, sumac, and flaky sea salt (like Maldon). However, you should experiment. Try making "everything" crackers with dried garlic and onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and flake salt. Or maybe go with sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds for a seeded cracker.

Preheat the oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet, baking stone (definitely use a baking stone if you have one), or cast-iron pizza pan on the middle oven rack.
Whisk together in a medium bowl:
           1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
           1 teaspoon baking powder
           1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Make a well in the center and add:
           1/2 cup lukewarm water
           1/3 cup olive oil
Stir until a rough dough forms. Knead the dough briefly on a work surface until it comes together in a smooth ball. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and roll each piece into a ball by cupping the piece of dough at the side furthest from you and dragging it towards you on the work surface. Rotate the dough and drag it towards you until it forms a ball. Essentially, what you're doing here is using the surface tension of the dough to create a ball.
Once all 4 dough balls are formed, allow them to rest for another 10 minutes.

Flatten out one piece of dough on a sheet of parchment paper, then top with a second parchment sheet. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thinly as possible into an irregular, organic shape. Because the parchment tends to get bunched up, after each time you roll, peel off the top parchment, replace it, flip the whole deal, then peel off the back parchment, replace it, and continue rolling. The dough should be very thin.
Remove the top piece of parchment. Sprinkle your choice of seeds, spices, and salt over the dough. You'll need about 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs per cracker, 1 tablespoon seeds per cracker, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt per cracker.
Roll your rolling pin over the surface of the dough to press the toppings into it. Slide the dough on the hot baking sheet or stone, and bake about 5 to 10 minutes, until the cracker is light to deep golden. It will bubble in spots, and the color will be somewhat irregular.
Repeat this with the remaining pieces of dough. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve whole, for your guests to break apart, or break apart the crackers into pieces.

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Joy of Cooking App for iPad and iPhone

After three years of collaborative effort with our friends at Culinate and Scribner, it is our pleasure to introduce the Joy of Cooking for iPad and iPhone! Please check out this full-featured, digital version of the 2006 edition. In addition to the recipes and indispensable reference information our readers know and love, the app has many features that are brand new to JOY:

  • Built-in recipe timers (you can have multiple timers going simultaneously)
  • Search for and filter recipes by key word, ingredient, cuisine, season, technique, diet, and more
  • Create shopping lists from within the app
  • Convert any recipe to metric automatically
  • Give voice commands or have recipe steps spoken to you
  • Create menus in the app
  • Share recipes from within the app
  • Color photography

Truly a JOY for the 21st century! Download by directing your browser to www.joyofcookingapp.com. Don't forget to review the app!

I've included the directions for cooking long grain white and brown rice. I give thanks for the Grains Cooking Chart in JOY almost every day, as I can never seem to remember the proper ratios...