PLACE: the kindergarten playground.
TIME: approximately 3:10PM.
PLAYERS: moms, with occasional pint-sized interrupters.
Me, noticing that Harry’s lunchbox still contains his snack, yet again: [Sigh.] Why do I bother? He never eats what I send…
Mom #1: Is that his snack? Mine never eats his either!
Mom #2: I stopped sending snack, since she keeps bringing it home untouched. [Grabs daughter as she speeds by] Hey honey, why isn’t anybody eating their snacks?
Girl: We don’t have snack anymore. Lots of kids don’t bring any, so Mrs. XYZ skips it.
Moms: What?! Five-year-olds need snack! Yackety-shmackety-outrage-blahblahblah!
The next day one of us hung a calendar by the classroom door, and now the parents take turns providing snack for the entire class. No more cranky, hungry after-school scenes. (Riiiight. That last part was a joke.)
Sometimes, though, I forget that it’s my turn until 10:00 the night before. And sometimes, my well-stocked snack shelf doesn’t contain enough of any one nutritious, appealing, nut-free thing to feed 20 kids. When that happens, I pull out the flour and make Wheat Thins.
I know, it sounds daunting, making enough crackers for a crowd. But this recipe, from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book, is both shockingly easy and generous enough to feed everyone. The dough comes together in less than 10 minutes, they roll out directly on the liner you’ll use for baking so they’re as fiddle-free as can be, and each batch comes out of the oven in about 6 minutes.
My friend Cindy over at Fix Me a Snack blogged about these a while back, so I owe her a debt of gratitude for calling them to my attention. And now you owe her, too.
Homemade Wheat Thins
Adapted from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking
Makes enough for 20 kindergarteners
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika (use cinnamon if you want to accentuate the sweetness)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional salt and sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Put the flour, sugar, salt, and paprika into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the butter bits on top, and pulse until the mixture looks like clumpy cornmeal. Combine the water and vanilla in a measuring cup and, with the processor running, pour through the feed tube and let it run until the dough is fully combined.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Place one on a lightly floured silicone baking liner or sheet of parchment paper, keeping the other 3 covered. Roll the dough into a rectangular shape, as thin as you can get it, moving it around frequently to keep it from sticking. Flour the rolling pin as needed, but take care not to overdo it or the dough will become too dry to work with.
- Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to trim the edges (keep those scraps—you’ll re-roll them later), then cut the dough into Wheat Thin-sized squares. No need to separate them, as the dough doesn’t expand when baking. Transfer the liner directly to a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a mixture of salt and sugar, or just salt, or just sugar, and bake for 5 to 7 minutes—watch very carefully during those last 2 minutes, as they burn easily. Cool on the liner.
- While the first batch is baking, roll out the second piece of dough—you should be able to get into enough of a rhythm that, as one sheet of crackers comes out of the oven, you’ve got the next one ready to go in.
- Combine all the scraps and re-roll one time. Consider this batch the chef’s bonus.
MAKE BABY FOOD: Go easy on the salt/sugar topping, and these make fine finger food for slightly older babies.