It started with a picture I saw in the local paper about making crackers from scratch. I saved it, but then never found it again. But I kept thinking ... how do you make crackers? And how would they taste different? So I decided to experiment.

It was right before we were having lentil soup for dinner, and I was out of bread, and I had nothing to lose, so I thought "Oh, what the heck." I did a quick search online and was disturbed by the complexity of the recipes I found there. One said don't mix too hard. Another said mix for 7 minutes. Some used milk and eggs, and others said let it sit for hours before you bake. Some said cook on low heat for a long time, and others said cook for a short time on high heat. Well, you know me ... I wanted the quickest, easiest, no-fuss option, so I pulled the essence out of the recipes I saw and came up with this simple recipe.

How good were they? Well, after a few Uncle Cracker jokes, there were shocked, respectful, and delighted comments, filled with awe. Lucia asked for them repeatedly for snacks. Eve asked me to make them all the time. Maya came home the next day from New York and, as my pickiest eater, reluctantly and suspiciously tried one. First she asked for the recipe to make for her smug married dinner parties in the city. Then, she found the last cracker, which Lucia had left sitting out after taking a few bites (and which was probably licked by the cat a few times) ... and she ate that! The whole batch lasted exactly 24 hours.

Maria's Crackers

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (organic from the Rodale Institute!)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil (plus more for the pan)


Directions

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees (because that's where mine automatically sets when I turn it on).

2. Put the flour, salt, warm water and olive oil in a bowl, and stir until all the flour is absorbed (less than a minute). It kind of feels more like dough than batter.

3. Take a baking tray (I used a heavy one with edges, rather than a light one with no edges), and slather it with more olive oil.

4. Put the dough on the tray and smooth it out to cover the whole bottom. I used a rolling pin doused with oil. And my hands, too. No need to be fussy here! In fact, the thin rustic-edged ones tasted the best, I thought.

5. Use a knife to cut the dough into squares, rectangles ... whatever!

6. Sprinkle the top with a bit more salt.

7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden. The crackers will harden up more after they cool.

The potential variations for this recipe are endless: cheese, herbs, nuts and seeds, spices. I can see a lot of cracker experimentation in my future. And what I loved about them was that they were so easy and quick, and required no plastic packaging to bring into the house or to throw out afterwards. I stored them in a glass container, but as I said, they didn't last long!

This article was reprinted with permission. For more from Maria Rodale, visit mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.