A plate of cheese and crackers is one of the easiest appetizers (and occasional dinners) that we can imagine. We never thought twice about buying crackers at the store for this very purpose, but the proliferation of recipes for DIY crackers over the past year has made us do some rethinking. Can there be a clear winner?
The world of crackers is so vast and diverse that it's hard to pick exactly one type to use for comparison. We finally settled on Kashi's "Heart to Heart Whole Grain Crackers" and the recipe for "Cornmeal, Parmesan, and Poppyseed Crackers" from the book DIY Delicious (recipe available here). We realize they're not the exact same cracker, but we feel that they're close enough for our general purposes.
All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery. In the homemade cost, we don't account for the cost of salt or other typical pantry staples.
• Kashi's Heart to Heart Whole Grain Crackers
PER SERVING: $0.47 (for 7 crackers)
• Cornmeal, Parmesan, and Poppyseed Crackers
1 cup all-purpose flour: $0.19
1 cup cornmeal: $0.05
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (ed: estimating ~2 oz): $1.12
3 tablespoons butter: $0.45
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt: $0.00
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (ed: estimating .25 oz): $1.06
PER SERVING: $0.24 (ed: estimating ~12 servings from the recipe's 14 oz yield, based on Kashi's weight/serving ratio)
• Kashi's Heart to Heart Whole Grain Crackers: 0 minutes
• Cornmeal, Parmesan, and Poppyseed Crackers: Active time - about 6 minutes; Total time including resting and baking - one hour and six minutes
It doesn't get much more convenient than opening a box and digging in. That said, it's surprisingly easy to make your own crackers. A quick whiz in the food processor and the dough is ready. All we have to do is roll it out, cut, and bake. The hands-on time is really minimal, and crackers can be made well ahead - even days ahead - of when we want to serve them.
TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS
With such a variety of crackers available on store shelves, it's totally possible to find one that meets all your personal standards for both tastiness and healthfulness. There are fat-free crackers and ones with no preservatives. You can find super-basic water crackers or ones chock-full of seeds and grains. So it's hard to argue that homemade crackers would necessarily be more tasty or healthful in this case.
The one advantage of making your own crackers is that you can control all the ingredients from start to finish. You never have to worry if a gluten-free cracker is really gluten-free, or if all the ingredients are truly organic. You can also control the flavors going into the cracker so you get exactly what you want, every time.
MAKE OR BUY?
Personally, making our own crackers feels like a special occasion kind of thing to us. We'll make a batch for a fancy dinner or to go with a particular appetizer. But for more everyday purposes, we're perfectly content to pick up a box at the store. Even with the minimal effort involved in making them, we'd usually rather focus our time and energy on the other dishes on the table.
One big surprise from this comparison was how relatively inexpensive it is to make your own crackers verses buying them in the store. If you have a toddler or someone else in your house who regularly devours every cracker in sight, this could be good incentive to switch over to making our own more regularly.
OUR VERDICT: Buy, except for special occasions.
What do you think?
Related: Make or Buy? Cake Mix vs. Homemade
(Images: Peapod and Chronicle Books)