So, I made a margarita this afternoon and was sitting out on the deck enjoying the view. I don’t have salt for the rim of the glass, so decided a nice salty cracker would be a good substitute. I have an untried recipe for “Cheese-Nibs” and decided to make them to accompany my drink. (The margarita was full when I started baking.)
They take very little time and are easy to make. You can adjust the amount of dusting salt to suit your taste. I rolled the dough out on the same parchment paper I used to bake them—less mess, more efficient. I also left a few of them un-separated on the baking sheet and they seemed to be fine. Next time I will just cut them and leave them all attached. They seem to shrink slightly and pull away from their neighbors. As you are working on one of the chilled disks of dough keep the other in the fridge. After each step return the dough to the fridge to set up a bit. It makes cutting etc much easier.
INGREDIENTS • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated • 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature • 1 Tablespoon vegetable shortening* • ½ teaspoon salt • 1 cup flour • 2 Tablespoons ice water • Coarse salt for sprinkling
Combine cheese, butter, shortening, and salt in the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. The mixture will be crumbly.
Slowly add flour and then the ice water. You may add a few more drops of water to help it come together but be careful not to add too much. You don’t want a wet dough.
Pat the dough into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes (or longer).
Preheat oven to 375⁰F.
Using parchment paper or a silicone mat roll each disc to 1/8 inch or less and sprinkle with coarse salt
Cut into 1 inch squares (a pastry wheel or pizza wheel is easiest). Use a toothpick to punch a hole into the center of each square.
If you have difficulty separating and transferring the crackers onto the baking sheet return the parchment paper/mat to the refrigerator for 10 minutes (while you roll out the 2nd dough disc).
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until puffed and browning around the edges. If you pull them out too soon and the crackers don’t have the desired crispiness you want then simply return them to the oven for 2-3 more minutes.
Move crackers to a cooling rack. Makes about 7 dozen crackers.
We only had Ritz and Saltines in the cupboard, then I saw these crackers online. I have both Brie and aged cheddar cheeses in the fridge and while the cheddar is fine on Ritz the Brie just doesn’t work for me on either cracker. However, lightly salted soda crackers, topped with a little homemade fig jam and Brie is, as Mary Berry would say, is “scrummy”.
The hardest part of making these crackers is the rollin’, rollin’ rollin’. Luckily, the dough, once rolled out slightly becomes very supple and elastic and didn’t tear. Rolling out to the ultimate 11”x15” sheet seemed to take forever. Luckily, preheating the oven to 425 deg likewise takes a long time. (I used convection which dropped the temp to 400 deg.) Too bad there isn’t a way to photograph the crisp snap. The crackers are great!
Gourmet Soda Crackers
• 1 1/2 cups (163g) Italian-Style Flour (40g cake flour, 123g AP flour) • 2 teaspoons instant yeast • 1/4 teaspoon salt • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar • 1 tablespoon King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver, optional but helpful • 1 teaspoon sugar • 6 tablespoons (85g) water • 2 tablespoons (28g) butter • 2 tablespoons (25g) vegetable oil
Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, dough improver, and sugar. Set it aside.
Put the water, butter, and oil in a microwave-safe cup, or in a saucepan. Heat gently just to melt the butter. Remove from the heat, and cool to 120°F-130°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, this will feel hotter than lukewarm, but not at all uncomfortably hot; it’ll be cooler than your hottest tap water.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Beat at medium, then high speed for a total of about 90 seconds, to make a soft dough.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 18 hours. It won’t rise much; the bowl can be small.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Lightly flour a work surface (a silicone rolling mat works well here), and remove the dough from its rising bowl. It won’t feel like normal yeast dough; it’ll be more clay-like. Shape the dough into a 3″ x 5″ rectangular block; pre-shaping it like this will help you roll it out evenly. Roll it into a rough 13″ x 15″ rectangle; it’ll be quite thin. Be sure to keep the rolling surface well-floured, to avoid sticking.
Starting with a shorter side, fold the dough in three like a business letter.
Roll it out again, this time to an 11″ x 19″ rectangle, or thereabouts. The dough will shrink when you stop rolling it; your goal is to end up with a rectangle that’s about 10″ x 18″.
Sprinkle the dough with your choice of salt — we like an herbed or smoked salt — and gently press it in with the rolling pin.
Using a rolling pizza wheel (easiest) or a baker’s bench knife, cut the dough into 2″ squares. Note: If you’re using a silicone mat, cut very carefully – you don’t want to damage the mat. We like to use an acrylic-blade pizza wheel.
Transfer the crackers to two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets; you can put them fairly close together, as they’ll shrink as they bake, rather than spread. Prick each cracker once or twice with the tines of a fork.
Bake the crackers for about 10 minutes, till they’re a very light golden brown. Watch them carefully towards the end of the baking time; they can darken very quickly.
Turn off the oven, and open the door completely. Leave the crackers on the oven rack; they’re going to cool down right in the cooling oven, in order to preserve their crispness. Keep your eye on them for the first couple of minutes; if for some reason your oven isn’t cooling off quickly, and the crackers are continuing to brown, pull the rack out partway.
When the crackers are completely cool, remove them from the oven, and wrap airtight, to preserve their crispness.
I wanted a snack to go with football and a beer or two this past weekend and remembered this recipe in Paul Hollywood’s bread cookbook. I based my recipe on his for poppy or caraway seed or Gruyere cheese crackers but mine just uses cheddar cheese.
A couple of caveats I learned the hard way:
Rolling the dough out thinner makes more, crispier crackers. They will puff up, especially if thick. Next time I will use the spacer rubber bands on my rolling pin to be sure they are thin and uniform.
Make sure they are cooked through. They need to be a good golden brown. Leave them in a few extra minutes and test a thick one when you think they are done. They should be well cooked all the way through or they won’t have a good cracker snap (they will still taste great though.)
325 g white bread flour
8 g salt
110 g softened butter
45 g water
120 g sharp cheddar cheese
Put the flour, salt, butter, water and 1 beaten egg into a bowl and mix for 5 min. (Stand mixer level 2)
Add the shredded cheddar cheese and mix until well incorporated.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1-2 hrs.
Preheat an oven to 400o fan and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured counter to about 1/8″ (no more) and cut. I used a 2″ round cutter. Place on the lined cookie sheet, brush with the second egg (beaten.) Dust with Kosher or Sea Salt and bake for 15 – 20 min.