Yesterday, we posted a recipe for the Butternut Squash Soup we’d made, and we showed photos of the soup with homemade crackers floating on top. We occasionally make crackers to go with soup; it’s not hard, plus you can match some of the flavors in the crackers to that of the soup. In this case, we decided to make a cracker with thyme to match the thyme in the soup, but we also wanted just a bit of cheese in there, too. We thought about Parmesan, but ultimately went with Red Leicester cheese.
If you haven’t had Red Leicester, it’s similar to an aged Cheddar, but a little bit milder. Plus, it’s a bright orange-red, which we thought would look nice in the crackers. So, if you want to make these crackers and don’t have any Red Leicester, feel free to use a Cheddar. We based this recipe on the Cracked Peppercorn and Parmesan Soup Crackers, which, in turn were based on Thomas Keller’s Soup Crackers. Both of those are tasty crackers, too.
Makes 4-5 dozen 1-inch crackers.
As we said above, feel free to substitute Cheddar cheese for the Red Leicester, it’ll still be good. And, of course, match the herb to whatever kind of soup you’re having. You can’t buy that kind of flavor coordination.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking pans with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Rehydrate yeast. We find it easiest to measure the 1/4 cup of water right into a Pyrex measuring cup, pop it into the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds to heat it up, and then add the yeast. When you heat the water, you want it to feel quite warm to the touch. Not hot, because that will kill the yeast, but more than lukewarm. If you’re not sure, you can check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Once the water is warmed, stir in the yeast. Stir some more, because it seems to clump and not mix in.
Mix dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, thyme, and cheese. With the cheese in there, it’ll be a bit lumpy, but that’s okay. When we make this, we often mix together the dry ingredients, then drop the lump of butter on top to let it warm to room temperature. About an hour does it.
Add yeast and butter. If you haven’t dropped the lump of butter on top of the flour, do it now, then pour in the yeast.
Mix. We just used our fingers to mix everything together. You could use a spoon, but why? You’ll have to knead this dough in a bit, anyway. At first, the dough will be somewhat sticky, but it will come together into a manageable ball. It’ll still be lumpy from the cheese, but don’t worry about that.
Knead. All together, knead the dough for 10 minutes. We like to break it up into two sessions: knead 5 minutes, let rest 5 minutes, then knead 5 minutes more. That rest in the middle really helps the gluten to develop and the dough to relax. You’ll notice a significant change in the texture after the dough has rested. At the end of the kneading, there will still be noticeable cheese bits distributed throughout the dough, which is what you want.
Rest. Let the dough rest for 5 to 10 minutes. With such a short waiting period, we don’t even bother to cover the dough, but you can if you want. This resting helps the dough relax and makes it easier to roll out.
Roll dough. Break out that rolling pin and roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8-inch. If you need to, you can dust the dough lightly with a bit of flour. We didn’t need any additional flour; the kneading and the butter kept it from being sticky.
Cut crackers. You can cut any shape you want. We happen to have a hexagonal cutter that’s about an inch across. We can place it adjacent to the previously-cut crackers to avoid waste.
Dock crackers. Once you’ve cut out as many crackers as you can, press a skewer through the middle, or press the tines of a fork through each cracker. This will “dock” the top of the cracker to the bottom, and prevent big air pockets from forming. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between crackers.
Salt. Sprinkle a bit of Kosher salt over the tops of the crackers, and, if you want, press it in lightly. If you don’t press in the salt, more will come off later, but that’s okay, too.
Bake. Slide the sheets into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, or until the crackers are a nice golden brown and crisp throughout.
Cool. Place baking sheets on a rack and allow crackers to cool completely before removing.
While these are really good crackers, we think that the Black Pepper and Parmesan are a bit better, as they had more of a bite and more cheese flavor. These were very good with a strong flavor of thyme, but less of cheese, and they paired very well with the soup that we had made. We think they would have been better with a stronger flavor cheese. Four stars.