Food Engineering/Manufacturing/rice crackers

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Question
I, too, am interested in learning how rice crackers are made, and I agree with the previous fellow who asked, that rice flour is very difficult. (But I am just an at-home cook!) I am celiac, with a cross-sensitivity to corn and other things. BUt the corn also triggers the celiac disease, so I really must avoid it, which is nearly impossible. I cannot afford all the boxes of Diamond Nut Thins that I eat, or would like to eat, as I do not have any other source of bread or plain crackers that I have found that do not have some bad thing in them, such as xanthan gum (made from corn, usually), maltodextrin (also made from corn), just plain old corn flour, or one of the dozens of corn ingredients that are commonly used.

I am desperate to learn how to make these, or something like them. I have failed many times.  These crackers are light. How do they get air into them, without using a leavening?  Or egg white? How do they get them light using just rice flour, almond (I assume almond flour or meal) and oil?  Mine are like hockey pucks. Even with baking powder. But then, I haven't got any double-acting baking powder that doesn't have corn starch in it, yet.... And single acting baking powder always seems to fail.

Answer
I do not claim any special cooking expertise, but I did a brief search on rice crackers and found a few recipes. It seems they are not necessarily leavened, but rather are pressed very thin. Two include cooked rice as well as rice flour. These have Japanese flavors, but I suspect you could experiment with others.


Japanese-Style Furikake Rice Crackers
Yield: 40 crackers
Ingredients:
•   3/4 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
•   2 teaspoons mirin, storebought or homemade
•   About 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
•   3/4 cup (120 g) Japanese Mochiko sweet rice flour (Blue Star brand) or regular rice flour (any Thai brand)
•   1/3 cup (40 g) cooked white rice
•   2 tablespoons canola oil
•   1/4 cup (60 ml) water
•   2 tablespoons furikake
Instructions:
1.   Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375F (190C / gas mark 5). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine 3/4 teaspoon soy sauce and mirin in a small bowl; taste and add pinches of sea salt for sweet savory flavor. Split a small zip-top plastic freezer bag down the side seams, keeping it connected at the bottom seam. Set aside.
2.   To make the dough, put the rice flour, rice, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon tamari (or soy sauce) and oil in a food processor. Run until finely ground. Remove the plunger from the feed tube, then run the machine, slowly adding the water through the feed tube to form a crumbly mixture.
3.   Transfer to a bowl and add the furikake. Knead to combine into a slightly oily dough. It will feel a bit crumbly but firmly press it together. Divide into 4 equal pieces.
4.   Working with a piece of dough at a time, roll it into a 5 or 6 inch log. Cut it crosswise into 10 pieces (think like you would with dumpling dough!). Roll each piece of dough into a small ball.
5.   Place a dough ball between the sheets of the plastic bag, then press with a tortilla press, bottom of a flat-bottomed dish or juice glass. Aim for super thin round about 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) wide. If the round tears, roll it up and press again. Carefully peel the dough round off the plastic and set on the prepared baking sheet. Press the remaining balls of dough, placing them about 1/4 inch apart from one another. When done, repeat with the other pieces of dough.
6.   Bake the crackers, one baking sheet at a time, for about 8 minutes, until dry at the edges. Flip the crackers with a metal spatula and/or your fingers. Bake again for about 8 minutes, until the crackers start to brown; they’ll sizzle.
7.   Remove from oven, cool for a minute, then brush the tops of the crackers with the tamari-mirin mixture. Return to the oven and bake a final time until glazed looking and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Monitor carefully or the glaze will burn and become bitter.
8.   Cool completely on a wire rack before eating. They’ll crisp up as they rest. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
(Chronicle Books, 2013)

Homemade Senbei- Japanese Rice Crackers
Makes 30 crackers
3/4 cup sweet rice flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill Sweet Rice Flour)
1/3 cup cooked white rice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons water
5 teaspoons furikake- Japanese seaweed rice seasoning condiment
1 tablespoon aged soy sauce
1 tablespoon tupelo honey
  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, combine the rice flour, white rice, salt, and oil. Pulse until finely ground. With the machine running, slowly add the water. Transfer to a bowl, add the furikake, and knead to combine.

Press hazelnut-sized balls of the dough between 2 ziplock bags into 2 1/2-inch disks (I use a flat-bottom brulee dish); the dough will be very thin. Bake on rimmed baking sheets for 5 minutes. Flip the crackers with a spatula and continue to cook until they are dry and starting to brown, 4 to 5 more minutes. Remove from oven. Turn off oven..

Combine the soy sauce and honey in a small bowl. Microwave for 25 seconds. Brush the tops of each cracker with the soy mixture. Place crackers in turned off oven and allow them to dry for 3 minutes. Allow crackers to cool for 15 minutes; they will crisp up considerably. Store in airtight container.

Recipe Ivy Manning, photos Gregor Torrence, 2011. All rights reserved.

Sesame Rice Crackers
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 cup roasted sesame seeds
3.5 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
3 tsp. sesame oil
1 cup warm water
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix everything together in a mixing bowl. The dough shouldn’t be too sticky and should come together. You can add a little more rice flour if it seems too sticky and wet.
Let the mixture sit for five minutes.
Spray a large baking sheet.
Pull of little teaspoon size pieces of dough and roll in to balls.
Similar to my previous cracker recipe, take a small square of oil sprayed parchment paper and press the ball on to the pan. You can use your hands, or you could use a heavy glass.
You want the cracker dough to be very thin, but you don’t want it to rip. Even if it rips though, it’s still tasty.
The crackers do shrink a little in the oven – so it’s ok if your dough rounds are touching.
Bake in oven for around 15-17 minutes. Check to make sure they don’t burn,
Cool on rack.

- See more at: http://www.confident-cook.com/2012/08/homemade-sesame-rice-crackers.html#sthash.  

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J. Peter Clark

Expertise

How various processed foods are made; ways to improve manufacturing; how to make a new food product.

Experience

Employment history: Research Engineer, U.S.Agricultural Research Service, Associate Professor Chemical Engineering, Virginia Tech, Director of Research, Continental Baking Company, President, Epstein Process Engineering, Inc., Vice Presdent Technology, Fluor Daniel, Inc., Consultant to the Process Industries

Organizations: American Institute of Chemical Engineers (Fellow) Institute of Food Technologists, American Association of Cereal Chemists, American Association of Candy Technologists, American Society of Agricultural Engineers,

Publications: Several Encyclopedias (Kirk and Othmer, Chemical Technology; Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition; Wiley Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology; Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems); five books, two book chapters; numerous journals.

Education: BSChE Notre Dame PhD University of California, Berkeley

Awards: AIChE Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Division Award 1998

Clients: Major food processing and pharamaceutical companies.

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