We love crunchy snacks, like just about everybody. But we don’t buy them very often, because we eat way too many of them, and they aren’t exactly health food. We have figured out a way to make them marginally healthier by making our own. Pita chips have been our favorite, or at least the ones we make the most often. We don’t make them all the time, but every time we do we wonder why we waited so long to do it again.
You don’t need a recipe for these (but I’m including one anyway), just a little imagination and a hot oven. Try them when you are looking for something to do with the kids, or yourself, on a rainy weekend. They don’t take long, and you get to eat the results right away. And not just pita chips, but bagel chips, pretzel chips or any other kind of bread product you can think to slice, flavor and crisp up in the oven. Yes, you can buy them, but there is a fun factor in making your own – trying out new flavor combos from whatever you can find in the spice cabinet. And have you priced a bag of pita chips lately?
I think the first thing we tried were bagel chips, probably over fifteen years ago. I can’t say we have made them many times, but when we do we usually eat them in one sitting. Here is the recipe as I remember it (not a direct quote) from Bernard Clayton’s “New Complete Book of Breads” recipe for bagels – Another thing to do with bagels is to slice them horizontally into three or four rounds (easy for him to say, ours were more irregular shapes), spread with softened butter, sprinkle with salt and bake until the butter soaks in and the rounds are crunchy. Who can pass up a passage talking about the butter soaking in? Not us, certainly!
Next were pita chips, before you could buy them in every grocery store. Slice pita breads into wedges, separate the two layers and spread them out on a baking sheet. A little brush with olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or salt, garlic powder or other spices, then bake them at 350 for 8-12 minutes, or until they are golden and crunchy. Check on them often and stay in the kitchen – they can go from golden brown to burned in no time. You can see in the top picture that I rescued them just as some were getting pretty brown.
The most impressive were the pretzel chips. And of course there is a story. This one starts with an open house Rich’s company hosted last fall. They were reaching out to local businesses, so the refreshments were beer from a local microbrewery and local soft pretzel sticks. There were loads of pretzels left over. I figured we could do something with them, so I asked Rich to bring a bunch home the next day.
By the time we had time to work with them, they were a full 48 hours old and were the texture of rebar, covered with melting salt from the humidity in the air. I had been thinking pretzel chips, but after sawing the first one into rounds with a bread knife, I was ready to throw the rest out for the squirrels, but I was afraid they would throw them back and break a window. Then we got the bright idea of using the slicing blade on the food processor. It truly was like magic. Three or four sticks fit into the feed tube at once and came out in almost paper-thin slices in about ten seconds.
We spread them out on baking sheets, drizzled them with a little olive oil, skipped the salt because they were plenty salty enough already, added a teeny bit of garlic powder and baked them until they were crispy. Pretzel chips!
It was truly amazing the volume of chips we got out of thirty long pretzel sticks. After eating way too many quality control samples, we had big container for us, and a huge 2-gallon bag of pretzel chips to send back to work with Rich. He came home empty-handed the next day, passing along kudos and requests for the recipe. One guy didn’t believe we had made them and wanted to know where Rich bought them.
The next time you are faced with a boring afternoon or a lack of snacks, dig out the pitas, bagels, baguettes, tortillas or whatever bread products you can find. Slice them (very thinly, so you don’t break any teeth), drizzle or brush on a little olive oil or melted butter, add whatever cheeses, herbs or spices appeal to you and bake until crunchy. Call them chips, crisps or crostini. Serve them at a party and let everyone ooh and aah over your culinary skills. Or eat them all by yourself in the kitchen as soon as they come out of the oven. I won’t tell…
Download recipe here.