Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cheese Puffs, Cheese Crisps, and Something In Between


I have a few different writing projects going right now (not to mention a wedding to plan--but the dress is taken care of!), and Eric has been warning me that I'm going to burn out. He keeps telling me to relax and actually take a full day off--something that is nearly impossible for me. But he's right. I'm getting burnt out. An avid gamer, he recommended shooting zombies, monsters, and whatever else in a video game for a good tension reliever. I decided to spend some time in the kitchen instead. Yesterday I made chocolate-covered cherries which I will be sharing with you next month (they need to age a bit). Today it was supposed to be a cheese cracker recipe I found on Pinterest. I probably have at least a dozen recipes for crackers bookmarked on my computer. Cheez-its, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Goldfish, Cheese Nips . . . you name it, I have it in my archives. But for my first cracker recipe, I went with the easiest one I had, a five ingredient cheese cracker: cheddar, flour, cayenne, salt and rice krispies.

And I managed to screw it up.

I had a brain freeze while adding the flour. So I could either scrap the dough and the 2 cups of delicious cheddar cheese, or I could experiment and come up with something on my own. Since the recipe was already a disaster, I knew I couldn't make it any worse. With just cheese, butter, too much flour, salt, and cayenne in the bowl, the crumbly dough reminded me of my pastry dough recipe. Keeping that recipe in mind, I added some water and left out the rice krispies. Not sure how these would cook (I really need to invest in a book about the chemistry of baking), I played with different thicknesses. My first batch, which were the thickest, came out as delicious cheese puffs. I ate half a plate of them without realizing it. They were that good.

Cheese Puffs
 The second batch were thinner but not thin enough. They ended up as a cross between puff and cracker.

The in between
I rolled the dough of my third and final batch as thin as I could possible get it. Those were the perfect cheddar cheese cracker. I ate too many of those, too.

Cheese Crisps
So instead of tossing that messed up recipe in the trash, experiment with it. You just might come up with a new recipe of your own.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 5 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

On low, beat the butter and cheese together in a large bowl until well combined. Add in flour, cayenne, and salt and combine. Your dough will be crumbly. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the dough sticks together. With your hands, roll the dough into a ball.

For Cheese Puffs: Roll your dough out to roughly a 1/4-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out circles (or any shape you want, trees or candy canes for Christmas, bunnies for Easter, pumpkins for Halloween, etc). I didn't have a cookie cutter on hand so I used a napkin ring. Place dough on the cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the bottoms slightly brown. You can actually make thicker puffs or roll the dough into balls and bake. You just need to adjust the time.

Before baking

After baking
For Cheese Crisps: Roll your dough out as thin as you can possible get it. So thin it's almost tearing. Some of my crackers had little holes in them where the dough did rip a little. Cut out small circles and place them on the cookies sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the crackers begin to brown.

These really do come out as crisp as any cracker. These are so simple that I can't wait to experiment with flavor. Add thyme or rosemary. You can also make these (or the puffs) look pretty by placing an herb in the center of the cracker before baking.

Eric came home from work and I made him try my puffs, crisps, and in betweens. He said they tasted just like Cheez-its then walked away with the container.



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