I try, whenever I can, to abide by a simple dietary rule: if the food in question is not something that would be considered “healthy,” if I want to eat it, then I need to make my own from scratch.
This is fairly easy when it comes to desserts – but as I push the rule, I have ended up making delicious homemade bacon, breakfast sausages, butter, ice cream, french fries, and even crackers.
I am a big fan of crackers. I can eat a whole box while having a few beers or glasses of wine. As I tend to do most of my beer and wine drinking at night, and crackers are full of carbs and concentrated calories, this behavior can quickly lead to bigger pants. Hence, the “make your own crackers” rule. This cuts down frequency of cracker intake, as well as providing more control over what goes in them both nutritionally and flavor-wise.
Readers from New England may or may not remember “Beer Chasers”, made long ago by a small Massachusetts company called Educator. I remember little about them other than they were delicious, they were made with lard, and they came in 4 shapes that all fit together.
They were cheesy, savory, and tasty. And that feeling is what I am trying to recreate here. Without the lard.
The original recipe and method are from the King Arthur Baking Book. I have altered the ingredients to tweak flavors and fat content. You may of course adjust the flavors and cheeses to your liking.
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup cornmeal or semolina flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pimenton – spanish smoked paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
about a cup of grated/shredded cheese. I use a blend of sharp cheddar, Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Or whatever I have on hand. To be honest I have never measured it, I just shred a pile and it has always worked out ok.
1/2 cup liquid. Official recipe calls for 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup oil. I tend to do 1/3 water, then fill to the 1/2 cup line with canola oil, or even more water/less oil to make up 1/2 cup total.
Kosher salt for topping the crackers
Preheat oven to 375.
Add dry ingredients and spices to a large bowl and mix by hand. Add the shredded cheese, and mix together. Mix the egg into the water/oil, then dump that in the bowl and mix it all together. You should end up with about a softball-sized vaguely orange ball.
Cut/break ball in half. On floured surface, roll out the dough until it is thin, like a cracker. Thinner than cookies. Maybe between 1/8 and 1/16 inch. Thin. It is possible, I believe, to use a pasta machine to roll out the dough. I have never tried this, as I fear trying to clean the thing afterward. So my crackers tend to end up with some thicker than others.
Cut out into cracker-sized shapes. I actually use a ruler and a pizza cutter. For some reason, i tend to make diamonds or parallelograms. You can use whatever you want – cookie cutters, cut freehand shapes, they all taste good.
if you want to add additional salt (of course you do), sprinkle on some kosher salt. Grab some in your hand, and drop it on the crackers from 12-18 inches above. I tend to lightly go over the crackers with the rolling pin to help set the salt – that helps prevent it from going all over your kitchen.
Pop them on parchment covered cookie sheets. Bake for 15 minutes or until they look golden brown around the edges.
Remove from oven and put on cooling racks to cool. I leave them on the parchment, and remove the cookie sheet so they don’t fall through the cooling rack. Let them cool – they actually cool fairly quickly – and enjoy with the beverage of your choice!