Carb Solutions: DIY Lentil Crackers
By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
- The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
- The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
This recipe starts out with both “dry” and “wet” bowls of ingredients that are combined to make the dough for the crackers. While the recipe below has been purposely kept very basic in its ingredients, during this first stage is where one can get creative with flavor additives to either bowl. The cumin and paprika are just conservative examples of the possibilities. Fresh rosemary, garlic, onion, as well as a couple of tasty items from the Melissa’s pantry come to mind -- Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers or Roasted Jalapeños! The flavor combinations are obviously endless; but the point is that whatever you decide to add to the flavor mix needs to be done during this initial “two bowl” stage of the prep.
Since Melissa’s Steamed Lentils are already cooked, turning them into a dough ingredient took just a few minutes in the food processor. You will note that added to the bowl of puréed lentils is flaxseed meal. This was a new ingredient for me but it was included in every lentil cracker recipe I found on the ‘net so I too decided it should not be ignored. It turns out to be a very interesting and extremely nutritious ingredient! Flaxseed has a pleasantly nutty taste. The whole seeds keep well, but they need to be ground into meal to get their full nutritional benefit. Grind the whole seeds with a coffee grinder or just buy the meal form of the seed in any grocery with a complete baking section. Flaxseed is very low in carbohydrates. Its combination of healthy fat and high fiber content make it a great food for weight loss and maintenance. While it’s not technically a grain, it has a similar vitamin and mineral profile to grains and has more fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids than most grains. Interestingly, the flax plant has been used to make linen cloth for centuries. Flax was cultivated extensively in ancient Egypt where linen was used in priestly and royal clothing. The Phoenicians traded Egyptian linen throughout the Mediterranean and the Romans used it for their sails. So I included it because of its nutty taste, nutrition and, as a recreational sailor, I just could not resist!
Admittedly, I began my first attempt at this recipe expecting the worst. Most all of the recipes that I had reviewed using either lentil “flour” or whole cooked lentils warned that the dough mix would need a little water to help bind the ingredients together and even then it would be difficult to roll out and then transfer each cracker to a cookie sheet for baking without a few crumbled crackers along the way. Not! The dough came out perfectly without the help of water – it was as pliable as pizza, which was very surprising. So it rolled out easily, the top parchment paper pulled off the rolled dough like a banana peel and, while transferring took a little care, there was no crumbling at all. Relatively easy-peasy!
Still, there are few prep pointers that should be mentioned. Though the prep picture of rolled out dough in the recipe below shows a misshaped dough that has been scored and a few uncooked crackers, this was staged to demonstrate the entire process in one shot. In practice, I found it much easier to trim the dough into 4 straight-edged sides before scoring into desired shapes. That first trim was kneaded into the second dough ball; the trim from the second roll out was made into a much smaller ball and rolled into a few more crackers. The other thing to be very aware of is not to over-bake or the cracker will turn dark and taste bitter. I found the easiest was to control this was to shorten the first side baking time to about 8 minutes, the crackers were firm, almost crisp, but still slightly undercooked; once flipped, I watched them like a hawk for another 5 to 6 minutes. They will crisp up even more as they cool. Store cooled crackers in a tightly sealed container. Besides all goodies that could be baked into these delicately hearty and very tasty crackers, there is also a whole world of dips, spreads and salsas that will pair well with these low carb nibbles! Now that I have found my preferred snack food, I intend to explore this world in depth! Enjoy.
Makes about 30 crackers (depending on size)
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Lentils, puréed until smooth
6 tablespoons Flaxseed meal and 1 teaspoon Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup
5 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
Mix together the puréed lentils, flaxseed meal, agave syrup and coconut oil in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the flours, salt, baking powder and seasonings. Combine the contents of the two bowls and form into a pliable ball of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.
Divide the ball of dough into 2 portions. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a flat surface, place one portion of dough on the parchment and then lay another sheet of parchment on top. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to desired uniform thickness. I prefer very thin.
Carefully pull off top parchment paper. To make square crackers, simply score the dough at even increments to form a grid. To make round crackers, use a round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter to cut shapes. Gather scraps of dough and roll out again to form more crackers. Carefully transfer each shaped cracker dough piece to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake crackers in batches at 325° for 20 minutes, flipping them half-way through baking process.