I have a serious addiction to Cheez-Its. I try not to buy them too often as they’re a little expensive when they’re not on sale – and more importantly, they’re pretty bad for you. They’ve got tons of salt and various preservatives. I found a recipe for Cheddar Crackers a while back that purported to be really close to Goldfish crackers. I love those too, so I decided to give it a try.
I’ve experimented with it a few times, and I’m still perfecting the procedure to get them exactly how I like them, but I’ve found that they’re a lot closer to Cheez-Its than Goldfish. I’m OK with that.
The recipe itself is very simple and requires very few ingredients. When I feel like making a batch, usually the only thing I need to go get is a block of cheese. It requires the following:
- 1 cup flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper (optional, but tastes great)
- 4 tbsp cold unsalted butter
- 8 oz grated cheese – a sharp yellow cheddar is a great place to start.
That’s it. Processed cheese already has a fair bit of salt in it, so you don’t need to add a whole lot depending on the cheese you select. The pepper really adds a lot of flavor despite there not being a whole lot.
Our food processor is kind of small, so I make the dough in two batches. All of the amounts divide into two halves very easily (the 3/4 tsp salt breaks into 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp).
The first step is to pulse the dry ingredients together until it looks like a coarse meal. Once that’s set, add the butter and pulse again – until it looks like coarse meal. Honestly, half the time I do this, I forget and add the butter in with the flour and seasonings right away. If it makes a difference, I haven’t been able to notice one.
Next add the grated cheese a little at a time and pulse it all together to combine. Eventually, it will form big granule looking bits.
Now, add 1 tbsp of water and pulse. You’re looking for everything to start coming together as a dough. Add additional tablespoons of water if necessary – but only one at a time. I’ve never once needed more than 1 tbsp of water for each of my two batches (so, 2 tbsp of water total).
Once everything comes together, pull out the dough and wrap it in cling wrap. Stash in the fridge for about 20 minutes – chilling it will make it a bit easier to roll out and work with. If you had to split your ingredients into batches like me, you can combine the two dough balls now. I don’t – for a reason.
Take out the chilled dough ball(s). I now split those into halves – giving me four small balls. I find it much easier to work with the smaller balls.
If you’ve got parchment paper, go ahead and put your dough ball on some of that. We’ve been out for a while and keep forgetting to get more.
Flatten one of the balls with your palms and throw on a bit of flour – just a light sprinkling. This is to keep the rolling pin from sticking too much. Roll out the dough to roughly 9 to 10 inches in diameter. On my fancy mat, I notice that I can start seeing through the dough just a bit – enough to see barely make out the dark lines underneath. Ideally, the dough should be between 1/16-1/8″ thick. Thinner means crispier, but too thin means you’ll have a hell of a time getting them off the mat and onto the sheet without tearing later. Get it as uniform as you can, but don’t drive yourself nuts. If you didn’t split your dough balls into smaller amounts, this can be tough. Keep the balls small – it just makes your life easier.
I use a pizza cutter to cut mine into roughly 1″ squares. I’ve also found that docking the dough helps keep them from puffing up as much. I just use a fork and tap each square twice, making 6 tiny holes in each. If you prefer puffy crackers, skip this.
If you used parchment paper, you can bake directly on that. If you want, you can go ahead and put the whole thing on a baking sheet now. As mentioned, I never have any and peel each cracker up one at a time and put it on the baking sheet. It takes longer, but I can make sure each cracker has plenty of room around it by doing it this way. So long as you cut the crackers, you should be OK with just putting the whole un-separated piece in the oven. Feel free to correct me if you’ve tried.
Here is where I differ from the original recipe. The recipe calls for baking at 350 for 15-20 minutes (until nicely browned). I’ve tried that and I can just never get the browning and crispness that I want. Baking at 375 for 11 minutes, however, gives me almost exactly what I want. You might try 375 for 10 minutes, check it and throw them back in for 30 seconds or a minute to get them perfect.
When they come out, they should be darker and crispy to the touch. They’ll be pretty hot, so let them cool down a minute or two before you start shoveling them in your mouth.
Next up, I’m going to try putting some hot sauce in – along with some paprika or cayenne pepper.
I’ve made this a bunch of times now and have experimented with lots of slight changes in things. Here are a few tips to get the perfect crackers:
-Preheat your baking sheet while the oven comes up to temperature. A hot baking sheet helps provide a better crisp to the chip.
-Even though we now have a larger food processor which can accommodate a full batch in one go versus having to do it in two smaller batches, I still find it best to quarter the dough after forming it all up. Make the dough in one batch, but split it up into four small balls. It makes it easier to roll out and get a nice thin cracker.
-For each ball of dough (you should have four), use two sheets of parchment paper. Lay the ball in between them and roll out the dough. I roll it out roughly into a circle shape with the widest side being just shorter than the width of the paper. If you get it stretched out to that distance, you’ve got them at just about the right thickness.
-It’s easy to leave the middle of the rolled out dough just a little thicker than the rest. Do your best not to.
-When you’re done rolling out the batch of dough, just peel off the parchment paper. I can usually re-use this piece for the next batch.
-After cutting the uncooked dough (I use a ravioli cutter with the wavy edge), I slide the dough AND the parchment paper right onto the baking sheet. I don’t separate the crackers at all at this point. When the crackers are done (about 12 minutes), they’re crisp enough that they snap apart easily after a brief cool down – usually just by flexing the parchment paper.
-I replace some of the water with hot sauce. I’ve had mixed results based on the different sauces I’ve tried so far, but plain Tabasco and Chulota hot sauce have been my favorites so far. I plan to try sriracha next.