Raw Sprouted Crackers

[This is a complete revision of my old sprouted crackers recipe, which is preserved here.]

You might have seen raw sprouted crackers in the Very Expensive Raw Food section of your local natural food store. I'm not a raw foodist, but sometimes I buy them anyway because they taste really, really good, and I wanted to figure out how to make something similar at home.

A few years ago the brand I saw was Raw Power, whose crackers were based on flax seeds. So I tried to copy that, but flax seeds are damn hard to sprout without special equipment, because when you get them wet they form a slimy mass that doesn't let air in. I tried sprouting flax mixed with other seeds that sprout easily: red wheat, buckwheat, and quinoa. And I tried flavorings ranging from curry powder to clarified butter and honey. In the process, I figured out good methods for grinding and cutting and drying, but the crackers were always as hard as rocks and only tasted good when I was desperately hungry.

Then I invested some money in buying samples of some newer brands, Livin' Spoonful and It's Alive. Both are based on sprouted sunflower seeds, and flax seeds that are not sprouted but presumably soaked. And they have some good ideas for ingredients to flavor the crackers and hold them together. After one experimental batch and another testing batch, here's my latest recipe:

6 Cups total Sunflower seeds and Pumpkin seeds
2 Cups Flax seeds
1 Cup (or an 8oz jar) Sun-dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
1 small head fresh Garlic, chopped
1 Cup (loosely packed) Dates or Raisins
1/2 Cup dried Basil flakes
1/2 Cup Carrot powder
1/2 Cup Onion powder
1 Tablespoon unrefined Salt
Olive oil for rolling out
Unchlorinated water for soaking

Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds have roughly similar soaking/sprouting requirements. You may not see sprouts but the seeds will come to life more if you let them sit a day than if you just go straight from soaking to grinding. You can also throw in some almonds, but since 2007, processors have been required to kill them with either heat or toxic fumigation, and are still permitted to label them as "raw"! So the only way you can get actual raw almonds is if you know a farmer.

Flax seeds are healthful, cheap, and when soaked they become extremely slimy, so they fill in the gaps in the crackers, but I'm not sure yet how well they hold them together. Dates and raisins are great for holding the crackers together, but they can also add too much sweetness. I still don't know how to make non-sweet crackers that are easy to chew and don't fall apart.

Definitely play around with the flavorings. If you can't find carrot powder, try some different powdered vegetables or other spices. If you have a juicer, you might improve the recipe by using the combined juice and pulp from carrots or other vegetables, as long as it doesn't make the mix too wet. Curry powder is good but too much is bitter. Coconut oil might work as well as olive oil. Sesame seeds will improve the flavor but too many will make the crackers fall apart. Dulse flakes are great!

I try different flavorings every time. On the latest batch I tried tomato powder instead of sun-dried tomatoes, and I also added some caraway seeds and a few apricot seeds, and replaced some of the onion powder with a Costco spice mix.

If you don't have a water filter, you can dechlorinate tap water by setting it out in an open container for a day. For salt I use Redmond "real salt", but Celtic and Lima sea salt are also good. "Sea salt" is a meaningless marketing term. If it doesn't say unprocessed or unrefined or have a trace mineral analysis, you're better off buying the cheapest iodized salt.

One wide-mouth glass jar, at least a half gallon
2-5 cookie sheets or baking pans
A hand grinder, or a powerful food processor, or a chopping knife and cutting board
A giant bowl or pot, or several small ones
A dull knife and a spatula
A dehydrator or oven

Soak the nuts and seeds in the the big jar for 10-12 hours. You might want to change the water once because the sunflower seeds will darken it. To drain the water, a wire mesh strainer is ideal but you can also use your fingers.

After draining, let them sit in the jar for another 18-24 hours. If you're not ready after 24 hours, you can put them in the refrigerator for another 12-24 hours. It's good to rinse them a few times. Here's a good general page on sprouting. When you get ready to put it all together, soak the flax seeds in just enough water to cover them.

If you're using dried tomatoes that are not soaked in olive oil, they will need several hours of pre-soaking in water, and water that doesn't soak into them should be separated (I would drink it). If the dates have pits, remove them, and if they're really dry, cut them up and sprinkle some water on them. Peel and cut the garlic roughly -- the grinder will take care of the rest.

For grinding, I've used a Corona mill, which is relatively cheap and works great on stuff coarser than flour. I would use a tight grind for the dates/raisins and tomatoes, and a loose grind for the nuts/seeds and garlic. There's no need to grind the flax. This step was much more difficult when I had the gooey flax mixed in with the other stuff, because it made everything gooey and it was a huge chore to push it all down into the grinder. You'll have to push the tomatoes and dates but the nuts/seeds should mostly go down by themselves. I haven't tried this recipe with a food processor, so I don't know the tricks. A blender will not work! On my latest batch, I tried just chopping everything with a big knife on a cutting board. It was a bit tedious but worked fine.

This is a messy project! Of all the foods I make, sprouted crackers take by far the most cleaning, and if you're doing it alone you should budget plenty of time for it. I recommend cleaning every tool as soon as you're done with it, before the stuff has a chance to stick on and harden.

So, when the grinding/chopping is done, just throw everything in a giant bowl or pot, and knead it all together with your hands for several minutes. You might want to taste it and add more flavors. Now you're ready to form the crackers and dry them.

The above recipe fits nicely in three 12x17" cookie sheets, which you are unlikely to have. Square pans with low sides are ideal, but in a pinch you can use anything with a flat bottom. If you're short of pans, you could put half the stuff in a bowl in the refrigerator while the first half dries.

Whatever you're using, spread a generous layer of olive oil in the bottom, and start pressing the mixture in. Then spread more olive oil on top. I press first with my hands, and finally work it over with a rolling pin or a cylindrical jar. Try to get it totally flat with a uniform thickness of about 3/16 inches (4-5mm). Finally, take a knife and cut the stuff in each pan into squares of whatever size you want your crackers.

The only thing left is to dry them. A real dehydrator is perfect, but an oven works too. To preserve enzymes and vitamins, the temperature should not go above 115 degrees (45C). Most ovens don't go that low, but the pilot light in a gas oven, or the light bulb in an electric oven, works tolerably well. I let them go overnight, then get a spatula and flip them all over to dry the other side, and keep flipping and drying for a few days. I also turn the oven on for a minute at a time throughout the day, but I've learned to always set a timer, because inevitably I will forget to turn it off. To keep someone from turning the oven on and accidentally burning your crackers, a great trick is to remove the dial and put it inside with your stuff.

Sprouted crackers are excellent for camping, long trips, emergency food, or portable snacks to avoid junk food when you're away from home. A little bit goes a long way.

(public domain, anti-copyright, version 2.1, August 2009)