We had a bit of a cold front move through North Carolina this weekend. Saturday dawned cool and cloudy. I pulled out a pair of jeans for the first time since, I don’t know, April? In combination with students returning for the first week of class, late summer suddenly felt just a teensy bit like autumn. Obviously busting out a fall baking project became an immediate weekend priority.
But what?? Every once in a while, I see a recipe for homemade cheddar crackers traipsing about the internet, and I promise myself, “THIS! This is next!” And then it never is. Until today! This particular cheddar cracker is a pretty basic one (as I imagine all cheddar crackers are) composed of a little butter, a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour, some salt & peppers, and a beautiful heap of sharp cheddar.
If you have a food processor, this is certainly a great opportunity to use it. I scoffed, at first… why would I need to use a stinkin’ food processor to make a simple dough? Shouldn’t a pastry cutter do the trick? The truth is, yes: you can. But the food processor takes this dough from flour to mealy-cheese-stuff to ball-o-dough in a matter of seconds.
Someone give this sucker a promotion.
Then! Chill it. As with pie dough, this dough should be rolled out and cut to shape when it is very, very cold, so it’s needs a while to hang out.
While you wait you should make something tasty for lunch. I made goat cheese pasta, which I would link to but I can’t yet because I haven’t posted it yet but I promise it’s coming.
Then! After an hour or so (or longer, if you want) the fun part begins! You’ll need a rolling pin and the cutest little cookie cutters on the block. I have this little autumn set that are each about an inch wide, but you can use whatever you want. Or you can just cut them into your favorite shape with the tip of a knife.
And let’s not waste the scraps. Clump ’em back together and re-roll them, and you should be able to use almost every bit of your dough.
These crackers then go into the oven, puff up, and come out as perfect little bites of cheesy goodness. Reminiscent of Cheez-its, the whole wheat flour adds a full, nutty flavor to these crackers, and the peppers and sharp cheddar give them a nice little bite.
Sadly, the hot muggy weather of summer has returned after our brief moment of fall-itude, but I can still pretend. After all, I have two jars of cute little fall leaves to snack on.
Crispy Cheddar Crackers
Adapted from Home Cooking in Montana
Makes about 5 cups of crackers
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 T unsalted butter, cold & cut into cubes
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
3 1/2 T water
additional salt for sprinkling
Combine flours, peppers, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to mix well. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add grated cheese about 1/2 c at a time, pulsing 4-5 times after each addition.
Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse between each addition until the majority of the mixture forms into a ball of dough. Remove dough from food processor and press any remaining bits into the dough to form a single ball. Press into a disc-shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or if you’re making the crackers much later, the dough can remain refrigerated for 1-2 days until you’re ready to use it.
After the dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 °F and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from plastic wrap and place on a floured surface. Roll out dough, flipping and re-applying flour as needed to prevent sticking, until it is about 1/8″ thick. Using your favorite tiny cookie cutters, a pizza cutter, or simply a knife, cut dough into crackers about one inch wide and place crackers on the lined cookie sheet. Crackers can be placed very close together as they will not expand outwards very much while baking. Once all dough has been used, sprinkle all crackers lightly with salt.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the bottoms of the crackers are golden brown. Check the crackers after 15 minutes, especially if you are using a lower rack in your oven. Once crackers are done, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. If you have any left, that is…