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Archive for July 27th, 2012

It’s the 27th!  Daring Baker’s reveal date, almost forgot!  This month, we were challenged to make crackers.

Personally, I’d rather buy a box of crackers than make them from scratch.  It was like one of our challenges way back when . . . we had to make graham crackers, only to smash them up for a graham cracker crust.  Well, there was a little bit of smashing going on this month, but not too much.

I decided to make Ritz crackers and Cheese Nips.  I chose Ritz crackers (from this lovely blog) because they were the easiest to convert into a dessert.  If you read my blog, I’m definitely more of a dessert baker.  And the Cheese Nips (found here) were selected because I had a block of amazing habanero cheddar cheese in my fridge and thought it would produce really good crackers.

The Ritz cracker dough was quite sticky.  I halved the recipe and made it in my mini food processor, then rolled out the dough between sheets of wax paper.  I don’t have many small cookie cutters, so I went with hearts over simple squares or rounds.

Crackers are kind of tricky because you need to bake them enough so they’re not soft inside, but you don’t want to burn them either.  They definitely require a careful watch.  But once they were out of the oven, I moved on to part 2 and sandwiched them with peanut butter, then dipped the whole thing in melted white chocolate.  Okay, those were pretty great.

The Cheese Nip dough was a bit easier to work with.  I mixed it using my Kitchen Aid mixer then rolled out the dough with my pasta maker (which I have yet to use on actual pasta).  It was kind of fun watching the flat little squares puff up during baking.  Basically made of cheese, water, and flour, I didn’t know they’d rise so well.  But the finished product didn’t have the kick that I was looking for by using the habanero cheddar.  The crackers worked well on cheese cracker chicken though.

So crackers really aren’t that much trouble to make.  But again, I think I’ll stick with buying them.

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Ritz Crackers:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp + another 1/2 tsp salt for topping
  • 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, and 1/2 tsp of salt in the food processor.
  3. Pulse to combine.
  4. Add cold butter a few small pats at a time, and pulse to combine.
  5. Add vegetable oil.  Pulse to combine.
  6. Add water a little bit at a time.  Pulse to combine after each addition.  The dough should start to form a ball.
  7. Roll dough out as thin as you can.  Mine ended up being all different thicknesses.  Don’t sweat it.  They are homemade!  If you are really concerned, Jeffrey had luck using a pasta maker to make the dough all one thickness – great idea!
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough out.  You can make them Ritz-shaped or any shape that you like.
  9. Poke holes in the dough in the Ritz pattern or any pattern you like (smiley faces would be fun!).  Keep in mind that the holes are not just decorative; they help the crackers to bake correctly – so be sure to poke some.
  10. Bake the crackers on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet for ten minutes or until the crackers just begin to brown.
  11. While the crackers are baking, melt the remaining butter and mix in the remaining salt (Some people said that my crackers weren’t salty enough.  Add more or less salt to your taste.)
  12. As soon as you remove the crackers from the oven, brush them with the salty butter.

Homemade Cheese Nips:

Makes approximately 15 dozen crackers

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-oz. block extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

Method:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cheddar, butter, and salt until soft and homogenous. Add the flour and mix on low speed; the dough will be dry and pebbly. Slowly add the water and continue to mix as the dough coalesces into a mass.

Pat the dough into a disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each into a very thin (1/8 inch or less) 10×12-inch rectangle. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut the rectangles into 1-inch squares, then transfer to the baking sheets. Use the tip of a chopstick to punch a hole into the center of each square.

Bake for 17 minutes or until puffed and browning at the edges. Watch carefully, as the high fat content of the crackers makes it a fine line between golden delicious and burnt. Immediately move the crackers to racks to cool.

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