I’m not sure if starting with this: “I made cheese crackers that taste just like the ones from a box!” works effectively as a selling point. But I mean that in the best possible way. Sometimes, I get an itch to recreate my favorite manufactured snacks at home. Usually, they come out better and more revelatory than the store-bought varieties. Marshmallows, for instance, become light and ethereal instead of dense and gummy.
Even now, once in awhile, I’ve been known to love me a smallish bag of Cheez-its. In high school, when I didn’t concern myself with reading ingredient labels, I often indulged in a snack of Cheez-its, a smallish Butterfinger bar, and a can of Mountain Dew. I’m not exactly proud of this. It just happened.
I grew to appreciate whole, unprocessed foods in college and beyond. And these days, my litmus test for will-this-come-home-with-me is whether or not I am able to pronounce all the ingredients on a package. And that’s where the store-bought version of these crackers falls short.
And the homemade version knocks the packaged one out of the park. There is just no contest. I love that these crackers are just as intensely cheddary, if not more so—in fact the complex notes of sharp cheddar are so prominent. I love how buttery and crispy they are; not dry and overly salty. And I love that unlike their store-bought cousin, they do not leave the dreaded orange glow on my fingertips, and underneath my fingernails.
The dough takes less than five minutes to assemble and after it chills for roughly half hour (or more if you wish), you roll it out, shape your crackers, and bake. I experimented with the ratio or flour to cheese to butter, and found the proportions below to be my favorite.
I’ve also rebelled against the square. Any reason why the boxed variety are so geometrically plain? I know of a certain someone who once made gingerbread cookies shaped like feet, and they were delicious! Right on the heels of Halloween, I decided I wanted mine shaped like pumpkins, bats, and ghosts (dotted with tiny black sesame eyes, of course); but there’s no reason why you can’t shape yours into your favorite cookie cutter shapes. Whatever you do, just don’t make them square.
Homemade Cheese Crackers
I have found that with these types of doughs, it is much, much easier to roll them out between two pieces of parchment paper. My counter, however, is ridiculously sticky. Yours might not be as bad. If you have a marble counter (I’m jealous) you might not need the parchment, but just lightly dust the counter with flour. If you wish to be virtuous and use whole wheat flour instead, go right ahead. The crackers will taste a bit more hardy.
A small, tapered offset spatula is very helpful here. I prefer it to a regular small offset spatula when I am working with dough that is cut out with cookie cutters as it tends to be a bit easier to maneuver.
If your crackers get a bit soft overtime, you can easily recrisp them in a 300 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
And finally, if you want to make ghost shaped crackers and wish them to have eyes, thin tweezers (the kind they use in fancy restaurants) make it possible to dot the small crackers with the tiny black seeds.
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour, plus additional
3/4 teaspoons (3 grams) kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoky paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
8 ounces (2 cups; 227 grams) grated sharp cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons (71 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Black sesame seeds, optional (if you make ghost crackers and want them to have eyes)
1. In a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse flour, salt, and cayenne a few times until combined. Add the cheese and the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pulse in 3 to 4 tablespoons of ice water, but add only enough water until the dough forms a ball and sticks to the blade. Divide the dough in half; flatten into disks, and wrap the disks in plastic. Chill the disks for 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. [I recommend dividing the dough because while you work with one half, the other half remains chilled in the refrigerator instead of warming up.]
2. Position the baking rack in the middle and heat the oven to 350oF (click here for Celcius/Gas oven marks. Line 2 large rimmed baking pans with parchment paper and set aside. Roll out the first dough disks between two pieces of lightly floured parchment. While the dough is still thick, periodically, lift the top piece of the parchment, lift the dough and flip it on the other side. Cover with the top piece of the parchment and continue to roll out the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick (or slightly thinner). Set aside a small bowl with a small mound of flour. Using your preferred cookie cutters (about 1 1/2- to 2-inches in width), dip the cookie cutter in the flour and press into the dough. Using a small, tapered offset spatula gently lift the cut out cracker and place it on the reserved parchment-covered baking pan. Cut out as many crackers as possible. If using black sesame seeds for eyes, using tweezers, gently deposit the seeds onto the crackers and gently, with the tip of the tweezers, press the seeds into the dough.
3. Bake the crackers for 15 to 20 minutes, or until puffed up, golden, and crisp. Transfer to cool to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough disk. Scraps can be chilled and rerolled once. I like to collect my scraps from two disks and create a third disk; chill it; then reroll.
Makes: Yield is dependent upon what size cookie cutters you have. Mine gave me slightly over 100 crackers.