Once again, we were thinking of small, easy to handle, snacks to bring down for our volunteer night (we help people check in for a weekly walk/run), and, as usual, a lot of sweet items come to mind. You know, cookies, mini-cupcakes, things like that. We didn’t want to go the sweet route, as this walk is right near dinner time, and we think that most people would rather have something a little more savory.
Besides, almost everyone makes those sweet items, so we wanted to mix it up just a bit and have something a little less pedestrian (less pedestrian for a walk that takes place downtown, hmm). We’d thought about making another batch of those delicious Blue Cheese and Pecan Crackers. Weren’t those good? What, you haven’t tried them yet? Get scratchin’. But, it seems as though people have this love/hate relationship with blue cheeses: either they love it, or they hate it. We don’t really run into people who say, “Hmm. Blue cheese, well, it’s pretty good.” So those Blue Cheese crackers were out. But what about cheddar cheese crackers? That we could do.
We went with a heavily modified version of a Cheese Sablé recipe from Chad Robertson’s latest book, Tartine Book No. 3. We mainly modified it to match what we had on hand, not because we saw something that we didn’t like in the original recipe.
Makes 36 2-inch crackers.
Okay, we’re betting that many people don’t have sour dough starter. What to do? Well, it’s such a small amount, you can omit it, or you can use an additional tablespoon of flour with a tablespoon of water. For the cheese, use a sharp, aged cheddar to stand up to baking. If you don’t have walnuts (or don’t like them), use another nut. Use unsalted butter, as these crackers will be salty enough without some dairy sneaking in a bit more. Don’t have sage? Use another herb. Finally, the seeds for rolling: basically, use something you like. It’s all good.
Procedure in detail:
Mix dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, walnuts, sage, salt, and pepper. It’s not a lot of ingredients, so you can use a smaller bowl, but don’t make the mistake we did and use a small bowl for the cheese (next step). Once you’ve measured out everything, just give it a couple of good stirs to coat everything and break up any clumps of fresh sage.
Mix cheese. In a large bowl (you’ll need the room for mashing and blending), mix together the cheese, sour dough starter, if using, and butter. You might have to put some effort into that spoon to mash the cheese and butter together along with the starter, but you can do it. We did.
Combine. Now, combine the dry ingredients with the cheese mixture. It’s probably easiest just to get in there with your hands. Don’t worry, the dough isn’t sticky, so just take the plunge. Mash it around and mix it until it all comes together into a stiff dough.
Refrigerate. Slide the dough into the fridge for 15 minutes to help it firm up a bit and make it easier to handle.
Shape. Take the dough out of the fridge, and, working with it on a clean, smooth surface, shape it into a log. Sure, you can roll it, but we like to make a square log. It makes the crackers look a bit nicer, at least to us. We pressed and pounded and shaped our dough quite vigorously, trying to ensure that it would stick together when was time to slice. We suggest that you do the same.
Roll in seeds. Spread the seeds out on a small baking pan and roll your log and press seeds into the surface. You should have plenty, but, if needed, add a few more seeds. Try to coat the sides of the log completely.
Refrigerate. Wrap the seeded log in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This will firm up the dough so it’ll slice nicely.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Slice. Unwrap the seeded log and slice off crackers about 1/8-inch thick. Try to make them all the same thickness, so they’ll bake at the same rate. Place the crackers on the baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart so that the hot air can circulate around them.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until crackers are a light golden brown and no longer soft to the touch. To ensure even baking, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time. Note, these crackers didn’t seem to crisp up very much while they cooled, so you’ll want them to be evenly golden, but watch carefully, as they’ll burn if left in the oven too long.
Cool. Transfer the crackers to a baking rack to cool. (Sorry, but we forgot to photograph the end result.)
These seemed to be a bit hit with the other volunteers, and we thought they were quite tasty, too. That made it a win-win in our book. Our only issue was they seemed to lose some of their crispness over time, becoming a bit soft, so we recommend baking until they’re completely golden brown. That should help. But don’t worry if they aren’t as crispy as you’d like; they’ll still be mighty tasty. For our crackers, we did a blend of the four types of seeds listed, but next time we’d use only seeds with a lot of flavor, the cumin and caraway. Four stars.