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Thursday, November 3, 2011
homemade cheez-it crackers
Step aside, Kellogg! Real crackers coming through.
CHEEZ-ITS are wonderful–and we all know this because we’ve been eating them since we were ten (unless you’re 75). We can each vouch for the fact that they have overly addictive properties–so many, apparently, that we’ve been instructed to get our own box. But, with all do respect to Kellogg and Sunshine Biscuits, I have to say that these homemade crackers are something else–they exceed all cheesetastic levels, and I wouldn’t doubt if the discernible tastes of real cheddar and butter send you over the moon (I suggest buckling up). They embody all of the characteristics that one loves about a CHEEZ-IT, including that salty and cheddar-cheesy crunch, as well as a new element of texture that Kool-Aid drinking, braces-wearing, CHEEZ-IT-eating ten-year-olds can’t quite yet appreciate. The texture is less like a snack you’d put into a paper bag lunch, and more like those gourmet cheese straws you’d pair with wine at a cocktail party.
There are only two things separating these beauties from the original fluorescent orange crackers. The first, of course, is that they are homemade, and because these are homemade, they are made fresh and baked free of any preservatives or odd ingredients like “soy lecithin” or “paprika oleoresin.”
(Please excuse me while I fact-check real quick…okay, yep…only 5 ingredients down there. Way cool.)
The second difference is that they lack the notches that appear on all four sides of the store-bought cracker. CHEEZ-ITS pride themselves on their allegedly amazing grip, so shouldn’t these imitators, too? Well, no, because these easy-to-hold crackers won’t be dropped unless it is into a bowl of steaming tomato soup. They’re large and in charge–and I could probably dub them the pantry bully if they weren’t so easy to love.
While these crackers are lovable from all angles, what I adore most is that any taste-tester would be instantly able to tell that they weren’t poured from a box; that, and they would feel twice as mature eating these as they would forcing their hand down a narrow cardboard chute that is often too tiny to comfortably grab a decent amount of crackers anyway. These are great on their own, with some peanut butter, or in a bowl of soup. Whichever way you try them, I’ll bet you can’t eat just one.
Homemade Cheese Crackers
(Yields about 40 crackers — Adapted from Country Living goldfish crackers recipe)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons coldunsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 (7-ounce) bag grated extra-sharp 2% reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or paprika)
5 tablespoons cold water
Combine flour, butter, cheese, salt, and cayenne in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until crumbly. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together, similar to making a pie crust. (You may not use all the water.)
Wrap dough in plastic wrap, press into a disc, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350º. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (this is important).
Place dough between two pieces of parchment paper. (It’s sticky!) Roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Carefully flip dough in parchment over, and gently peel off the top layer. Using a pizza cutter, trim dough into a rectangle, then cut into 2-inch squares. Carefully transfer squares onto baking sheets, using a spatula if needed. (I poked holes in the top of mine, though I’m not sure they made them puff up any less.)
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until crackers are just slightly turning light brown. Taste one for crispness. If they are not to your liking, bake just a few minutes longer–I baked mine for a full 25 minutes.
You can store these in an airtight container for up to 5 days–but I guarantee you they won’t last that long. If crackers are soggy after storing, re-crisp in a preheated 400º oven for about 4 minutes.