Spiced Cheese Snacking Crackers

Savory Recipes, Spring • 23 May 2014

The most consistent sound in my house is the squeal of my four year old. Through the eyes of a toddler, the squeal is a vital method of communication, though I find it an enigmatic and slightly vexing second language, a tornado of sounds and gasps and auditory shuffles.

My son’s got a few variations up his sleeve, including a tannic, bird-like squawk, a sort of imploring beggar’s squeal, long and stretched, utilized when he’s got urgent needs.

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Then there’s the acutely high-pitched squeal, a sign of unbridled delight, which strikes your spine with a menacing tingle; he’s got this astounding prepubescent ability to reach octaves characteristic of well-trained mezzo-sopranos.

Finally, the sweetly low, melancholic whine, lethargic like slowly dripping molasses, a demure little echo of a squeal, often accompanied by a sprinkling of manufactured tears. This one functions as a spider web of sympathy and is usually pretty effective.

Lately there’s been a fourth squeal, a squeal my son emits when he wants cheesy crackers. I kid you not, my kid’s desire for sweetly mild cheese sandwich crackers, crispy cheddar crackers, Goldfish, Cheez-It Snack Crackers, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies has taken on a life of its own. Stuck inside due to thunderstorms, faced with a straightforwardly empty fridge and thus not much to do, my hungry kid broke out his imploring “I want crackers” squeal; which is actually less of a squeal and more of a whine.

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After much begging for THE cheesy crackers, the holy grail of all snacks, those sweet little Ritz-like rounds filled with softly mild cheese, I somewhat relented. Unwilling to drag ourselves to my food coop in the midst of a diluvial downpour, I grabbed the giant container of half consumed, partially rejected hunks of cheese in the back of the fridge, and got to work.

I pulled out tangy, slightly pepper Sao Jorge, a dimpled hunk of Danish blue, a bit aged and overly pungent, which I immediately rejected. I’m not sure why I saved the rind of a gritty, salty hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano, but was determined to shred at least an ounce of usable cheese; brute force required. Of course cheesy crackers cannot be cheesy crackers without the awkwardly maligned piece of sharp aged cheddar, with its slightly hardened edges due to my failure to provide proper storage.

Basically, toss your ingredients into a blender, go to town with twee little cookie cutters and bake until crisp, savory and golden. I use a mixture of half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat, which makes a slightly more nutritious snack, but also gives the crackers a sharply nutty flavor. Along with buttery cheese and slick butter as well as a veritable smattering of spices, you’ve got your dough, which I freeze for about 10 minutes to chill before rolling. Otherwise the dough is impossibly sticky. I then baked the crackers until the color of terracotta, before removing them from the baking sheet to cool. But not for long: puffy, crunchy, buttery, crackly, salty, sharply cheesy snacks don’t last long in this house. The impulse to eat was immediate; cravings were fulfilled urgently. All was quiet on the western front.

Spiced Cheese Snacking Crackers

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 stick butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dried mustard
7 ounces sharp cheese (I used a mixture of extra sharp cheddar and Sao Jorge)
1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup ice water

1. Place the flours, butter and spices in a food processor. Pulse to until the mixture resembles a course meal. Add the cheeses and pulse to combine. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the mixture forms a ball. You may not need all the water.

2. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you are in a rush, cut the dough in half and freeze each half for 10-15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

4. Cut the dough in half and roll each ball between 2 sheets of wax paper. Roll out dough 1/4-inch thick and cut crackers with a cookie cutter.

5. Bake on the middle rack, about 15-18 minutes until golden. Remove crackers from baking sheets immediately and bake remaining crackers.

6. Snack immediately or store in an airtight container for 1 week.

Yield: Makes about 6 dozen 1/2-inch snacking crackers.

2 Responses

  1. Megan

    Awesome! Can’t wait to try these.

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