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Day 8: Cheese Crackers

In this season of sweetness, it’s sometimes nice to have something that is not sweet.  Cheese crackers are not something I would normally think of to make because crackers are so easy to buy and they don’t last long in my house with all the snacking that goes on, so it’s not something I generally think of as a good way to use up my time.

However, the few times when I have had freshly made crackers, they have been really tasty and nothing like the dry, overly seasoned things you buy in boxes.

So, I thought I would make some and they are not hard to make.  Everything gets mixed up in the food processor, which does all the blending.

The next step is shaping, which I did in two ways.  I rolloed out half the dough into a 1/4 inch thick sheet and cut out as many little holly leaf shapes as I could.

It turns out that 1/4 inch thick crackers are too thick.  The first pan was good, but they did not retain their crispness.  One eighth of an inch is a better thickness for crackers.

They bake for quite awhile, about 20 minutes for these little ones to get them nice and dry and crispy.

The other half of the dough got shaped into a log for slicing.  I haven’t made those yet, but probably will soon, because these disappear fast!  They are very easy to eat, quite tasty, and are a welcome break from sweet things.  They will be good for serving to guests as they are hanging around and waiting for the big meal.

I noticed that cinnamon buns are quite a popular Christmas breakfast treat!  In our house, we can’t remember what we ate for Christmas breakfast before I started making Pandoro.  Everything else is eclipsed by the Pandoro as if those breakfasts did not exist.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for another entry into my Christmas treat box giveaway.  I’ve started to pack the box now, but there are still a few things yet that need to be made.  My house is beginning to look like a bakery and my freezer is almost full!  How are you doing on your preparations?

Cheddar Cayenne Crackers

adapted from Williams-Sonoma

makes a lot of tiny crackers or 4-6 dozen medium sized crackers

1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder

8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) softened butter

2 heaping cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to combine.

Add the butter and pulse a few times until the butter is in small bits.

Add the cheese and pulse until the mixture looks pebbly.  Add the cream while the machine is running and then pulse until a ball begins to be formed on the blade or the dough starts to clump together.  If you squeeze a handful of dough together, it should stay in a ball.

Transfer the dough to a a sheet of parchment paper or clean pastry board.  Knead a few times to bring it all together into one mass.  Divide the dough in half.

If you would like shaped crackers, flatten the dough into a disk and roll out between two sheets of parchment to a 1/8 inch thickness.  Use 1 inch to 2 inch cookie cutters to cut out shapes.  If the dough is too soft and sticky, place the sheet of dough into the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.

If you want slice and bake crackers, shape your dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in parchment of plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours before slicing.  When you are ready to bake, slice the log into 1/8 inch thick slices.

Transfer the shapes to your prepared cookie sheets so that they don’t touch.  A half inch of space around each cracker is sufficient.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your crackers.  Larger cookies will take longer,  They should be golden brown.  Let cool completely on a rack.  Store in an airtight container and eat within a week.

Friday Catch Up

Well, I hope that you have all had a wonderful week. Ours has been busy with all the work and celebrating that goes with big holidays. We had the bonus excitement that comes with a white Christmas. Baking cookies on Christmas Eve with snow softly falling outside is a memory I would like never to forget. It was gone the next day, but, surprisingly, we got more on Boxing Day. There is nothing like sledding to tire little boys out. Now, I am ready to relax for a few days and catch up on sleep (which I am a bit short on right now), movie watching, and playing games with the boys.

First, though, I am going to catch up on December’s FfwD recipes. In the midst of all the other holiday baking, I did manage to squeeze in cooking all the FfwD recipe for December. The Saturday before Christmas, we went to the grocery store and I came home with a nice big piece of celery root.

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I have never before prepped, cooked, or eaten this particular veggie before, so I was curious about how it would taste. The prepping part was surprisingly hard, but I have weak hands. There was quite a lot of banging involved with cutting up this big root ball, but I did manage it eventually. What surprised me after all that work, was that the pieces floated in the water! The potato pieces sank to the bottom of the pot, but the celery root bobbed at the top like apples.

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Generally, I try to avoid creamy things and since I planned to serve the puree with the Pork (not chicken), apples, and cream a la normande, I boiled the potatoes and celery root in salted water instead of milk. Speaking of pork, this recipe turned out to be as nice and easy as everyone said it was. I mixed in some sage in the flour as Dorie suggests in the Bonne Idee section and it did make the pork look prettier, as well as smell wonderful.

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I added some leftover bacon that was lying around to the sauce at the end, and we all agreed that it was a nice addition to the otherwise creamy sauce. The sauce was great over the celery root puree. Only one of use did not like the puree, but that same kid does not care for celery, so that was not a surprise. I liked that the puree tasted lighter than traditional mashed potatoes. It would definitely go with everything, as Dorie suggests.

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After all this, it was pretty easy work to make the Cheese-it-ish crackers. I rolled out the dough while it was still soft and then froze it. On Christmas Eve, while I was baking a thousand (it seemed) cookies, I snuck a pan of crackers in the mix to have as a savory snack among the sweetness.

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I used a mild, shredded cheese mix that I had in the fridge, and added smoked paprika to the dough. They baked up prettily, and everyone liked them, especially the husband, who probably wouldn’t care if he never saw another cookie for a year. I wonder how these would taste with other cheeses? I found the crackers almost too mild, so I suspect I would like them more with a stronger tasting cheese.

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These crackers were almost all gone the day I made them, so I may have to make another batch soon and see for myself. We’re supposed to get more snow tomorrow (yay!), so that would be a good time for me to do this recipe again. Or, maybe, I’ll go sledding with the boys!