Sunday, March 8, 2009

Desperately seeking homemade artisan crisps

The word 'artisan' is a little like the word 'wedding' -- attach it to something and expect to pay twice or three times the price. And when I say 'artisan', I'm referring of course to food. Artisanal cheeses, artisanal bread, artisan crackers. I know why it's all so expensive -- you're paying for choice ingredients like organic flours and milk, and fancy additions such as figs and pepitas.

And I usually go in for this stuff -- those gorgeous oval loaves studded with cranberries, walnuts and flaxseed get me every time. But there's one item I just can't get my head around: the artisan crisp. Don't get me wrong, these things are addictive. Flavours such as Rosemary Raisin Pecan, Cranberry Hazelnut, Date and Walnut -- such a perfect little snack food, and much more interesting than a water cracker or a piece of Melba toast. But a box costs anywhere from $5 to $7 depending on where you look.

So, I wondered if I could make my own artisan crisps. What first got me thinking about this was a recent recipe for a Nut and Seed Biscotti on the fantastic food blog 101 Cookbooks. Packed with hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and pistachio seeds, they were sliced thin and looked like a perfect stand-in for the crisp. I tried my own version, using ingredients I had on hand including walnuts, slivered almonds, and dried apricots. So how did it turn out? Well, it was still a bit more like a biscuit than a crisp. That said, I could picture using it in a number of places -- on the side of a salad, for instance, or as an afternoon snack with some goat cheese on top (as the 101 Cookbooks author suggests), or even in the more typical way, as a morning treat with a coffee.

So, the search for the homemade crisp continues, although I do recommend trying this biscotti recipe. One thing to note though, if you decide to have a go at this, be aware that if you're using fruit, be careful not to let it burn in the second half of the baking process. Some of my apricots were a little over-done.

Apricot, Almond and Walnut Biscotti

2/3 cup dried apricots
2/3 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
2/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 300F. Grease loaf pan and line with parchment.

Slice apricots into four lengthwise. Toast walnuts and almonds on a baking sheet for a few minutes.

Mix together flour, sea salt, apricots, and toasted nuts.

Whisk together sugar and eggs. Mix dry ingredients into sugar-egg mixture and stir until incorporated. Mixture will be thick. Spoon it into the loaf pan and press down evenly with fingers.

Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes until cooked all the way through (check with a toothpick).

Once done, remove from oven and turn it up to 425F.

Slide a knife around the edges and turn biscotti out onto cutting board. Using a serrated knife slice the biscotti crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick pieces. Lay pieces flat on baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and bake in oven for 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven, flip the biscotti, and return to oven for another 5-6 minutes until both sides are golden and crisp. Repeat with remaining biscotti.

Makes 20-24 biscotti.

Modified from Nut and Seed Biscotti, 101 Cookbooks, March 2009.

If anyone has a recipe for artisan crisps, please email me at -- with your permission I'd like to try it, and perhaps feature it on this blog.



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