Maple Fruit & Nut Crisps (An Easy Homemade Cracker Recipe!)

About a year ago, there was a story going around about how Kim Kardashian tweeted that she always feels awkward and a little nervous when she gets to an event before any of her friends have arrived.

People were joking around and being unnecessarily mean about it ("why would she feel awkward?!").

But I knew exactly what she meant!

And I suspect that you do, too.

Because we've ALL had those first few minutes when you walk into an event, be it for work or a casual friend's party, and you get there and you hang your coat then head to the bar for a glass of something, but once you have that in your hand, you suddenly find yourself looking around at a room full of strangers already grouped up into tiny pockets of conversation.

All these little circles, and you're trying to figure out how to get in on it.

How do you deal with those moments?

I start off by pretending to be tremendously interested in my cocktail, all the while surreptitiously sneaking glances around in the hopes of spotting a familiar face or someone else looking equally alone and thirsty for conversation.

If the situation seems hopeless, I'll make a beeline for the bathroom where I admit to taking an excessively long time washing my hands or fixing my lipstick, in the hopes that someone I know will show up while I'm hiding.

(The bathroom is also a great place to make friends since it's where all the other weirdos go to hide.)

And if it's really dire?

Well, I'm not above dialing my voicemail and pretending I'm a business lady on a totally important call.

Oh Whatever..I know you've done it, too!

Anyway...you might be wondering what any of this has to do with these lovely crackers.

These crackers--or a version of them--were actually my saving grace during a recent event when I found myself in a room full of people with absolutely nobody to talk to.

I got to this party and after killing way too much time talking to the coat check lady about how cold it was, I grabbed a glass of wine and wandered over to a cheese plate. Leaning against the bar, I picked up a cracker in what I hoped appeared to be a cool and carefree confident business lady manner. I took a bite and instantly forgot about being cool or carefree or even just plain-old awkward because the cracker was that good.

I didn't have to pretend! I was genuinely suddenly obsessed with the cracker, which was sweet and salty and had tiny bits of chewy fruit and hints of rosemary.

I stood there alone in that crowded room, happily eating one cracker after another, savoring the flavors, even commenting to a man who stood nearby that the crackers were onderful and that he HAD to try one.

He did (taken, I assume, by my rabid enthusiasm and business lady-like confidence), and we soon started chatting about the cracker, then more stuff, and then (just like that!) the party had begun!

It's really all just about getting through those first few minutes, folks.

Just before leaving that particular event (which ended up being lots of fun), I asked one of the waiters about the incredible crackers and he gave me the name of the brand--Jan's Farmhouse Crisps--indicating that they were sold at a shop just down the street.

I bought a bag to bring home for further inspection, because I suspected that I could replicate something similar at home. I checked out the ingredients, and after a bit of searching I came across a few similar recipes via the blogs Dinner with Julie and Simple Bites.

And so here we are!

These little crackers are wonderful--thin, crisp, with a bit of sweetness and a bit of chew. They're not exactly the same as Jan's (those are sliced super crazy thin, which is what makes them so addictive and almost chip-like), but they're still VERY good.

They're perfect with cheese or even just very good salted butter (my current obsession is Vermont Creamery's Cultured Butter with Sea Salt).

And they couldn't be easier to make--just a simple quick bread filled with herbs, nuts, and dried fruit (the combinations are endless and completely up to you--I used apricots, pistachios, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and rosemary), then frozen, thinly sliced, and baked again until crisp.

Fair warning: the recipe is easy, though it does require a bit of patience as you have to let the loaves freeze before you can slice them thinly.

You can't skip that step.

(Trust me. I tried.)

Make a large batch and keep them to enjoy during quiet evenings at home, or pack a bunch in a pretty cellophane bag and bring along to your next party where they can do double duty as a hostess gift AND a conversation starter.

Win!

****
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Homemade Fruit & Nut Crisps Recipe
Makes about 80 crackers. Adapted from recipes found on Simple Bites and Dinner with Julie.

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup flax seeds, ground
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped dried fruit (suggested apricots + cranberries, but use what you like!)
2/3 cup chopped roasted salted pistachios (substitute almonds or walnuts)
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Coconut oil or baking spray for greasing pan

Directions
Generously grease 4 mini loaf pans or 2 regular loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, kosher salt, sugar, rosemary, and flax seeds.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, maple syrup, and vanilla.

Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour and stir until completely combined. Gently fold in the dried fruit, nuts, and pumpkin seeds. Divide batter into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown, risen, and firm. Let cool completely on wire racks, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for minimum of 3 hours but ideally overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Use a very sharp knife to slice thin, even slices and arrange on an unlined baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, then turn and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until crackers are dark brown and crisp (careful not to let them burn).

Let cool completely. Can be stored in an air-tight container

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