Cracking Secrets, for Savoury Biscuits

Elizabeth Palmer is CBS News’ senior foreign correspondent in London, add to that Frontline Club champion, chairperson and now baker, anything this lady has not time for?  


At the start of the coronavirus   lockdown my son gave me some of the precious sourdough starter he’d got from his local baker.  I treasured it, and made some stunning loaves.

But sourdough starter is a gift that keeps on giving….and giving.  It grows in the fridge.  If you don’t use it up, you have to throw most of it away.  It felt like such a waste.

For the first few weeks, I managed to pass the extra on to friends who (thought they) wanted to start making sourdough bread too.  Then I ran out of ambitious friends.

In the nick of time,  I discovered the King Arthur Flour webpage of recipe suggestions for what-to-do-with-leftover-sourdough.  King Arthur Flour is located in Vermont.  One day I hope to visit to tell them I love them.

In the meantime I have had a blissful time making their recipe suggestions, including these wonderful biscuits (Americans would say crackers)   that are fantastic with cheese or all alone as a snack.  And they keep for days.  Weeks, too, I assume –  though they have never lasted long enough to find out.

Go heavy on the seasoning.  Less is definitely not more.  I experimented with finely diced rosemary  (at least 3 tbsp.); pumpkin and cumin seeds; and chopped chilis and black onion seed.  The sky’s the limit.

If you don’t have sourdough starter – you can substitute ½ cup of flour, ½ cup of water and 2 tbsps. of yoghurt or buttermilk.

HOME MADE BISCUITS/CRACKERS with thanks to King Arthur Flour


  • 1 cup (113g) Flour (experiment with white, seeded, malted or brown – or even a blend of several)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup (227g) sourdough starter, unfed/discard (or substitute- see above)
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • At least 2 tbsps of herbs, spices and seeds – anything you fancy
  • oil, for brushing
  • coarse salt (such as kosher or sea salt) for sprinkling on top



  1. Mix together the flour, salt, sourdough starter, butter, and optional herbs to make a smooth (not sticky), cohesive dough.  Add a bit more water if you need to.
  2. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a small rectangular slab. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a couple of hours, until the dough is firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180C.
  4. Very lightly flour a piece of parchment, your rolling pin, and the top of the dough.

Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough to about 1/16″ thick. The dough will have ragged, uneven edges; that’s OK. Just try to make it as even as possible.

Transfer the dough and parchment together onto a baking sheet. Lightly brush with oil and then sprinkle the salt over the top of the crackers.

Cut the dough into 1 1/4″ squares; a rolling pizza wheel works well.

Prick each square with the tines of a fork.

Bake the crackers for 20 to 25 minutes, until the squares are starting to brown around the edges. Midway through, reverse the baking sheets: both top to bottom, and front to back; this will help the crackers brown evenly.

When fully browned, remove the crackers from the oven, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

by Elizabeth Palmer