We’re big fans of cheese in this house. Blue, soft, hard, goats, cows, sheep(s), we’ll eat it all. And there’s nothing better than a good cracker to have with your cheese, maybe with a little touch of quince jelly or a grape or two to make the cheese feel a little more virtuous.
I’m hungry now.
I’ve never really given much thought to crackers, given that they’re mostly just a vehicle for speedy and clean delivery of cheese to mouth. But as I’ve had a lot more time on my hands recently, I’ve been talking to the cat about crackers. Or maybe I’m crackers for talking to the cat. Regardless, I recently found myself on a cracker making mission (mostly because there were none in the house and I was loathe to change out of my pajamas at 4pm to buy some. Stay classy, Vins.).
A few years ago, a group of us hired a cottage in Devon for New Year’s Eve. Being typical Londoners, we filled the car with booze, cheese, duvets and an essential Xbox (including Singstar) and assumed that upon arrival there’d be a corner shop nearby in which we could find some food for that evening, before doing a proper supermarket shop the next day. Bear in mind, we arrived around 4pm on a Sunday and had chosen the cottage for it’s remote location. Yup, we’re townie twats. No shops to be found, but we had packed some flour in amongst the wine and the taps had running water so we fashioned some flatbreads and ate those with cheese. Not the worst meal ever – in fact, that meal is one of my favourite memories of that trip (I was drunk most of the rest of the time).
So my brain goes, if I can fashion flatbreads out of flour and water, just imagine how amazing my crackers would be with a cupboard full of ingredients and Google?
Google shows me that many other people have had much the same thought so my cracker mission starts with a couple of hours of reading recipes until I eventually find myself nodding along to this article from The Washington Post, which leads me to this recipe, also in the Washington Post from Pat Elliot at Everona Dairy. She’s a cheesemaker and developed these crackers to go with her cheese. Perfect for my needs.
The base recipe is just about perfect on it’s own – light, a little salty, delicious and a perfect cheese delivery system. But sometimes you just want a cracker (not often) so like Pat, I thought I’d experiment with my own flavours and so made four variants – cheddar, fennel, cinnamon sugar (that was hers, FYI) and parmesan, fennel and cumin seeds.
The recipe is below or via the links above. According to the WP journalist, these were a fraction of the cost of buying them – I didn’t cost them up but I’d completely agree, and this recipe makes between 80-100 bite sized crackers – which last a couple of weeks if you don’t eat them all at first sitting (which I definitely did).
- 2 cups flour (and more for dusting)
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 stick (57g ish) butter at room temp, cubed
- 1/2 cup hand warm water (use sparingly)
Method (stage one)
- Preheat oven to gas mark 7 (or equivalent)
- Whisk together dry ingredients
- Using rubbing in method, as if you’re making pastry, rub in the butter till you get a texture like fine breadcrumbs
- Once you have a texture you’re happy with, without any lumps, gradually add the warm water until the dough is just combined
- Turn onto a floured surface and give a quick knead until the dough is smooth
- Split into four equally sized balls and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes in warm place
Whilst you’re waiting for the dough to rest, consider your toppings. What I used is below, but feel free to adapt to your own tastes – just be careful to not change the consistency of the dough. There are other variants available via the recipe link above.
Toppings/flavours (amount per ball)
- 25g grated cheddar (use a microplane)
- 25g parmesan grated (as above)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar
Method (stage two)
- Take your first ball and flatten a little
- Cover the top of the ball with the 25g cheddar and fold/knead in till its all incorporated – should only be a minute or two. If you overknead, your crackers will end up dry and overworked
- Once your dough is relatively smooth again, flatten out again, dust your board and rolling pin and start rolling
- Keep rolling (picking up, redusting and rotating as you go) till you can practically see the board through the dough – this will take some time and a lot of upper body strength. Keep going, imagine the cheesy crackers you’ll have at the end of it
- Once they’re thin, cut them into your desired shape – I started with squares and then realised it’d be much easier with a cookie cutter – the smallest ring size (I want to say 6cm but I could be lying) is the perfect bite size
- Transfer the crackers to a lightly floured baking sheet and prick with a fork
- Bake for 8-12 minutes until the tops are golden – you may need to move them around on the tray during baking in order to ensure the ones on the outside don’t get burned
- Cool on a wire rack
The method is much the same for all the other topping ideas – I mixed the seeds with the parmesan but incorporated it all at the same time.
If you’re using cinnamon sugar, get your unbaked crackers rolled and cut and onto the baking sheet, then sprinkle with sugar before baking. Word to the wise, sugar burns so keep a very close eye on these unless you want them very ‘caramelised’.
Since I first discovered this recipe a fortnight ago, I’ve probably made them once a week. They’re really good and really easy – and apparently cost effective too. Enjoy!