The most horrible thing happened recently. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, our local Pike Place Market cheesemonger, started selling crackers that feature their delicious Flagship Cheddar. The cheddar is yummy, and the crackers are almost yummier. They make me swoon and drool. They make me eat way too many. They make me want to make my own cheesy crackers.
I love making crackers, but I’d never made cheese crackers. I started perusing recipes, checking out the Beecher’s ingredient list, and chatting up the homemade cracker folks at our West Seattle farmer’s market. After some experimentation, I have a recipe that I really love. It’s not the same as the Beecher’s cracker, but it’s pretty darn good.
I will confess to you that although a copy of The Human-Powered Home sits on the kitchen table, I make this dough in my food processor, and it takes about two minutes (I’ve written before about being a thoroughly conflicted and contradictory neo-Luddite). The truth is, I just hate “cutting in butter.” I know it should be meditative and fulfilling and all that, but I just don’t like it, and I’m tickled that I can toss flour and butter together, push “pulse” for ten seconds, and have the perfect crumby mix. I think of the food processor, and my beloved pistachio-colored stand mixer as my “kitchen tractors.” But by all means, make the dough by hand if you like.
Here’s the recipe, but I want to encourage you to play with it. More or less of this or that. Make it yours.
Yummy Cheesy Crackers
1 cup unbleached all purpose or whole wheat pastry flour, or a mix of the two
1/4 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar (more or less on the mustard and vinegar to taste)
1 cup good cheddar, grated
1/4-1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
With your fingers, or in the food processor, mix the flour, corn meal, butter, and salt, until fine crumbs form. Add the mustard, vinegar, cheese, and eggs, and mix until the dough comes together. Cover, and let rest for 10 or 15 minutes in the fridge.
Divide the dough into two pieces, and roll it very thin–about 1/8 inch. I used to roll crackers with a rolling pin, and that works fine, but lately I’ve been using the pasta maker, which works much better (with an added benefit: as long as the pasta maker is out, Tom is often inspired to make some beautiful fettucine for dinner). If the dough comes out ragged, add flour–as much as it takes for a good, smooth result–it doesn’t seem to affect the crackers in the end. Remember you are making crackers, not pasta–you don’t have to condition the dough by running it several times through the machine, as you would with pasta dough. But this cracker dough is not fussy. If you need to pass it through a few times, adding flour as you go, then don’t worry. It doesn’t seem to worsen when worked.
Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork, then cut it into squares, diamonds, or triangles, using a knife or pastry wheel. Sprinkle with a good finishing salt or kosher salt, and whatever else you like. Paprika is pretty. Seeds, such as cumin, caraway, or black mustard lend texture and spice. Use your imagination. They are also good with nothing at all sprinkled on top.
Heat the oven to 375, transfer crackers to a baking sheet, and bake until the edges are nice and brown, and the tops are beginning to turn golden brown, 8-12 minutes. The ones in the photo at the top of the post are not quite done. If you undercook the crackers, they will still be good, but less crisp. Store in an airtight container, and eat within a few days.
While you’re about it, you might want to make a double batch. These disappear quickly, and you can freeze half the dough for next time. Let us know how you like them, and we’d love to hear about your own favorite cracker recipes!