We wanted a snack that was easy, fast, tasty, and contained cheese for a road trip that we took earlier in the week. We needed it to be easy because we planned to make a bunch — our trip was on a bus, and, in elementary school, we learned that if you’re going to chew gum, you should bring enough for everyone. We wanted it fast so we could make it in the morning before we left. The tasty part is obvious, but the cheese part came as a request from someone who was going along. (Yes, we do take requests; we might not honor them immediately, but we’re always open to suggestions).
We’d decided on what we were going to call “smoked cheese stars,” with the idea of modifying a cheese straw recipe and piping it into star shapes instead of straws. Best laid plans and all that; when we tried to pipe the dough, the piping bag split (it was a disposable, so no worries). Our stars were out. So, we just rolled and cut crackers. Just as tasty, and a good backup plan. Now, we’re sure you’ll want to scratch these up, so let’s do it.
You’ll note that we give the weights of the ingredients; that was to make everything go faster for us. We could cut off the appropriate amount of cheese, run it through the grater attachment on the food processor. Swap to the regular blade, weigh the flour directly into the food processor bowl, toss in the remaining ingredients and go. By weighing and doing it this way, each batch of dough took under five minutes.
For the cheese, we used a mix of smoked Gouda and smoked aged Cheddar that we picked up at Trader Joe’s. Of the two, we actually prefer the smoked Cheddar, as the flavor profile is a bit more complex, but the mix was nice, too. Butter, as for all baking, should be unsalted. You’ll be adding salt, so no need to have the dairy add an unknown amount for you. We added red pepper flake to two of the batches of crackers, one we left plain, and to one we added the smoked paprika. There wasn’t a lot of difference between them, except the smoked paprika gave the crackers a nice orange color.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Pulse. Place the grated cheese, flour, butter, salt, and red pepper or smoked paprika, if using, into the bowl of a food processor; pulse 5 to 10 times, or until the mixture looks like coarse meal. A tip: our food processor will sometimes shoot flour out between the lid and the bowl, so we set it down in the (dry) sink before pulsing. Any flour that shoots out ends up in the sink and later it’s easy to clean.
Add milk. With the processor running, pour in the tablespoon of milk and let the processor run until the dough comes together and rides up on the blade, about 10 seconds.
Roll. Dump out the dough onto a lightly-floured work surface (or onto a piece of baking parchment) and roll to a thickness of about 1/8 of an inch. If you don’t want to roll out the dough, you can shape it into a 1- to 2-inch diameter log, wrap it, refrigerate 30 minutes, then slice and bake.
Cut. Cut the dough into crackers about an inch across. You can use a cookie cutter and make them round, or a knife and just make square crackers. We used a small hexagonal cutter that allows us to cut out crackers adjacent to one another, leaving few scraps. The scraps can be re-rolled (or baked up as chef’s snacks).
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake 14 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers are just turning golden and feel firm to the touch. The amount of time will vary, depending on the thickness of the cracker. Our thin crackers were done in about 14 minutes, but we did have a batch that ended up a bit thicker, and those took about 20 minutes of baking. So, check them often, and don’t let them burn, as burnt cheese tastes bitter.
Cool. Remove to a rack to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container.
We think these were a hit. Everyone seemed to like them, and the four batches of crackers were gone by the time we headed for home. The two of us really liked the added flavor that the smoked cheese provided. It made them seem even cheesier as compared to other cheese crackers that we’ve made. Since these are so easy and so tasty, they definitely rate five stars.