Finding myself in a mood for a salty snack this afternoon, and with a little spare time, I tried baking homemade corn chips. These are labor intensive, but the results were acceptable. They do not taste like purchased corn chips from a bag, but more like thin, crispy corn bread. Perhaps the best description would be a somewhat fragile corn cracker.
I actually had made these baked corn chips a couple of times in the distant past when our boys were small. The recipe came from a government flyer with suggestions for low-income families. These are definitely cheap, but take a ridiculous amount of time to make simply for a family meal where food is gobbled, and seldom appreciated.
However, as an activity to do with a roomful of children on a cold or rainy day, I think this would be a great option. I never made these with my boys because one of them would not have had the patience for it, but he had problems. Most kids would be able to enjoy the activity. With a group of children you could go through the ball of dough rather quickly. You could also cut the recipe in half.
1 c yellow corn meal (I used stone-ground meal, but regular will work fine)
1/2 c white flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
5 T milk
3 T oil
various salts/herbs such as celery, onion, or garlic salt, Parmesan cheese, Mrs. Dash, etc.
Combine the dry ingredients (except flavors) in a bowl. Combine the liquids, add to the dry ingredients and mix. Knead for about 2 minutes until the dough holds together in a ball. I had to add about one more tablespoon of liquid to get it to hold together. I think that’s because I used the stone-ground meal.
The directions now say to break off marble-sized pieces and roll them paper-thin. This is certainly one option, but there are others.
Using a rolling pin to roll a tiny circle of corn dough is too awkward. What does work well is a smooth-sided juice glass. This would also be easy for children to handle. I didn’t use any flour or anything to keep the dough from sticking. Every once in a while, a chip would stick to the glass, but not usually. When one did, I could peel it off and still use it. The surface I rolled them on was an enamel counter-top.
You can also take a marble-sized ball and simply press it with your thumbs until it’s thin and spread out. This might be another good way for kids to shape the chips. Keep pressing until it won’t spread out any more. These can be done on a counter and then moved to a cookie sheet with a spatula, or pressed right on the sheet. That would be a nice way to define space for a child- to give each one his or her own cookie sheet.
I also tried using a rolling pin and flattening a larger wad of dough, then cutting it into chips. This was the least successful. It was hard to get the chips really thin. The chips cut from the middle were nice (see the diamond-shaped ones in the picture), but the ragged edges were so uneven that I ended up with a lot of small pieces. I did learn that after it is rolled once, it’s difficult to make the pieces adhere enough to re-roll. However, since these were thicker, I did learn that they bake up just fine, but are definitely more like a cracker, this way.
All methods, except the center-cut ones, will have ragged edges.
Place on baking sheets. They can be close, but not touching. Sprinkle with flavoring of some kind.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. One of my baking sheets is actually a cast aluminum griddle, and this made the nicest chips. They stayed golden and didn’t brown as much at the edges. You can easily see this difference in the picture of the completed chips, where the two back towels hold the ones baked on the griddle.
I removed them to paper towels to cool. My favorites from today were seasoned with celery salt, and the garlic salt was good too. (The dog sure liked the one with Parmesan cheese that fell on the floor.) I ended up with almost exactly 10 dozen chips, which is 120.
Depending on the kind of oil and the fat content of the milk you use, these chips will have about 10 calories each, if you start with marble-sized balls. This is comparable to many commercial crackers, with much lower salt
I have to say that making these might help you eat a more reasonable number as a snack. Having just spent over an hour on the project, it made me appreciate every 10-calorie chip as I ate it. Rather than mindlessly eating through a bag, I savored every single little crisp!