Friday, October 26, 2012

homemade cheese crackers

boo!

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.

dough ball

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.

rolled out dough
to the oven!

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.

the ghosts have black sesame seeds for eyes
homemade cheddar crackers

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.

ghosts, pumpkins, and bats!

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.

cooling...

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 cheddar crackers

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.

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36 Comments

  • 1
    Adrienne said:

    So funny, I was JUST looking at a cheese cracker somewhere else and thinking I wanted to make some this weekend, and now I’m convinced. Love the ghosts!

    October 26, 2012 11:08 am
  • 2

    These couldn’t be cuter! Sesame seed eyes are a great idea.

    October 26, 2012 11:24 am
  • 3
    Rose D. Frenchtown, NJ said:

    I love these! I will definitely be making them with the littles this weekend!!

    October 26, 2012 11:27 am
  • 4
    Denise said:

    OMG – these are too cute. I want to make them for MEM. Where did you find the tiny halloween cutters?

    October 26, 2012 11:28 am
  • 5

    These are seriously cute little Halloween snacks!

    October 26, 2012 11:33 am
  • 6
    Radish said:

    Denise – I got them on Amazon. I searched for them everywhere and everywhere they were gigantic. I wanted small ones though. I love (!) them and will use them forever, probably!

    October 26, 2012 11:39 am
  • 7
    Margaret said:

    SCARY!! Snack!! Love that you made these in costume!!! Adorable. And sound tasty, too.

    October 26, 2012 12:12 pm
  • 8
    Barb said:

    These are adorable, and I’m also a cheese cracker addict. I’m wondering if I can either freeze the cut shapes or freeze the finished crackers ahead of time & bake off or refresh the day I want to serve them (for a big party — want to do as much in advance as possible).

    Thanks!

    October 26, 2012 1:28 pm
  • 9
    Andrea said:

    these are really good, thanks for the recipe. I used brebis d’Espelette, british cheddar and a very tasty Swedish cheese brought to us by one of our B&B guests. I threw in a bit of English mustard powder too and they are just perfect (we like things spicy in our house)

    October 26, 2012 2:15 pm
  • 10
    Radish said:

    Barb – I’m not sure how easy it is to cut out and freeze (though it seems to make sense), but you can definitely bake a few days ahead and recrisp in the oven (I have notes on that in the headnote of the recipe).

    October 26, 2012 2:38 pm
  • 11

    I get the same weird need to recreate childhood junk food favorites . I think it takes away some of the guilt I feel for loving things that contain 13 syllable ingredients.

    October 27, 2012 2:37 am
  • 12
    Dena said:

    Adorable and a nice alternative to sweets at Halloween.

    October 27, 2012 7:12 am
  • 13
    Elinor L. said:

    Possibly the cutest recipe ever. And thank you for doing the Cheez-it test-kitchening for us!

    October 27, 2012 10:03 am
  • 14
    Dana said:

    These are adorable, I love the cutters you used. (I happen to have a bunch of eensy weensy cookie cutters that would be perfect for this.)

    And as for tasting just like the ones from the box, I hope it’s one of the tasty boxes. Some cheese crackers seem to prescribe to the idea that anything orange and salty is cheesy. *head shake* These look like they’re going to taste as good as the actually tasty cheese crackers from the box. Great job!

    October 27, 2012 1:46 pm
  • 15
    Geerhj said:

    Can these be baked en masse as a rectangle divided into 2×2″ squares on one baking pan?

    October 28, 2012 12:51 am
  • 16
    Radish said:

    Geerhj – yes, of course, but that’s not nearly as fun as shaping them into ghosts.

    October 28, 2012 7:14 am
  • 17

    […] craving a recipe for Cheez-its, and I’m still not sure whether I am planning to make these crackers, but they are so incredibly sweet looking, in a delicious not-really-scary-Halloween sort of way. I […]

    October 28, 2012 7:51 pm
  • 18

    […] the non-candy department, these ghost shaped cheese crackers are adorable.  I haven’t made crackers in ages;  I should probably get on that. (via […]

    October 28, 2012 9:02 pm
  • 19
    Sasha said:

    How so very daring of you! I love the spooky shapes :)

    October 28, 2012 11:47 pm
  • 20

    […] paar Halloween-Rezept-Ideen gesammelt. Beginnen wir mit herzhaften Snackideen. Wie wär’s mit Homemade Cheese Crackers? Sicherlich recht aufwendig, extra Cracker selbst zu machen. Aber sehen die Geister nicht […]

    October 29, 2012 7:41 am
  • 21
    Erin said:

    Oh my gosh these are the cutest cheese crackers ever! Also look deliciously cheesy. :)

    October 29, 2012 9:14 am
  • 22

    […] ones on the shelves. 4. Eat lots of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. 5. Snack on our ghoulish cheese crackers. 6. Learn to take naps. 7. Try writing longhand (something I haven’t done in ages). 8. Read […]

    October 29, 2012 10:19 am
  • 23
    Peggy said:

    Ahh, these are perfect for tomorrow’s festivities!

    October 30, 2012 3:11 pm
  • 24
    Hannah said:

    By far my favorite Halloween treat! I made a double batch for our Halloween buffet and used a pumpkin cookie cutter for larger crackers. Unbelievably good! They were a hit with everyone. They’ll definitely be making an appearance with our Thanksgiving appetizers…just have to find a turkey cookie cutter now. :) Thank you for sharing!

    November 1, 2012 7:00 pm
  • 25
    Radish said:

    Hannah – I’m so so happy to hear. They’re addictive, aren’t they? And how easy to make are these, right?

    November 1, 2012 7:31 pm
  • 26

    […] se voulaient en forme de citrouille mais on finalement terminé par n’être que des ronds – http://www.sassyradish.com/2012/10/homemade-cheese-crackers/) et des oranges surprise (recette de ma mère – qui constitue d’oranges vidées de leur chair […]

    November 2, 2012 7:07 am
  • 27

    I am not a big fan of crackers in general…but you make them sounds so much better than the store bought stuff. I may consider trying this now! The shapes you’ve made a fantastic!

    November 3, 2012 6:55 pm
  • 28
    Christian Rene Friborg said:

    I LOVE Ritz bitz so much, but I’m trying to eat a little healthier, so maybe these home made cheese crackers can substitute. Will give this a try!

    November 13, 2012 11:27 pm
  • 29
    christine eveland said:

    I tried to make these using almond flour and I didnt get the doughy consistency needed. instead they were really sticky and basically ended up a big sheet of melted cheese. going to try and add some regular flour to the 1/2 of the dough I didnt use and see if I can salvage. The mess sure tasted good though.

    November 20, 2012 7:12 pm
  • 30
    olga said:

    Christine – I wouldn’t recommend using much almond flour at all in this recipe. You really need the proteins of regular flours (like apf or whole wheat) – the almond flour isn’t really flour at all, but really a “meal” aka finely ground almonds. I hope your attempt #2 is a more successful one! :)

    November 21, 2012 8:36 pm
  • 31
    Jessica K. said:

    Am I being a total noob cook right now because the cheese quantity confuses me. Is it 8 oz shredded to equal two cups?

    January 18, 2013 12:39 pm
  • 32
    olga said:

    Jessica K. – Yes, in this case 2 cups of shredded cheddar = 8 ounces (by weight, not volume) – some people prefer to weigh their cheese and forgo dry measuring cups.

    January 18, 2013 3:47 pm
  • 33
    Sonya said:

    I’ve been knocking around the idea of making crackers at home because A. The ones in the box are expensive and B. I’ve been becoming more health-conscious and have started trying to use whole foods more. My question is this: I’ve got an itty bitty food Cuisinart food processor that can only handle small batches of stuff. Can I use the blender, or would I be better off doing it by hand?

    January 19, 2013 7:36 pm
  • 34
    olga said:

    Sonya – that’s a tough one. This is a “dense” dough that a normal blender might not handle – maybe a Vitamix would, but most people don’t have those at home. I’d try it by hand, but I’m afraid that in this case, a food processor is quite necessary. Let me know how your crackers turn out.

    January 20, 2013 8:54 am
  • 35
    Doug said:

    Does the butter go in with the flour at first, or with the cheese later? The narrative in step one mentions adding the butter twice. Thanks.

    July 15, 2013 12:36 am
  • 36
    olga said:

    Doug – please see my correction. Thank you for catching that!

    July 15, 2013 6:51 am

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