Thursday, 21 February 2013

Revisitng Childhood- Cheddar Cheese Crackers

 I've always leaned towards savoury over sweet when it's come to snacking.  Judging by her love of pasta, cheese and anything topped with plain yoghurt I'm guessing my little apple Nell has not fallen too far from my snacking tree.  As we get closer and closer to March and the major 1 year milestone of her birth, I'm starting to plan.  What will we eat on her birthday?  What will we eat for our Grandparent's birthday celebration just a few days later?  And what could I make Nell that is both baby friendly, as well as good big people food as well?

Whether they're called Cheez-its or Baked Cheddars (depending on what country you're in) the idea of a cheesy, crunchy snack seems to tick all the boxes. 

What I never realised until a few years ago (gasp!) is that many of my favourite cheeses are named after the places they were developed in.  Cheddar, Stilton, Wensleydale- all actual places in England!  This is something probably painstakingly obvious to most native Brits.  As an American living in Britain on the brink of pledging my loyalty to the Queen and becoming a full fledged citizen,  I think it should have been on my 'Life in the UK' culture test.  Cheese is as much a part of British culture as tea and apologies.  Thank you dear citizens for not throwing me out of your country due to my cheese ignorance.  Please keep in mind I hail from the land of 'American cheese'- which came in single square servings wrapped in plastic.  What did I honestly know about cheese?

So, in keeping with my anthropologic ideals of this blog while attempting to create an appealing toddler/baby friendly snack with a nod to my childhood I set off to make my own Cheddar Cracker.  Poor Nell never even saw a crumb from the first round.  They were just too tasty not to keep sampling for quality control. 

These are definitely going on the birthday menu!  Hopefully she'll actually get some next time...

Sharp Cheddar Cheese Crackers
Adapted from Joy the Baker

makes about 70 crackers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
8oz/225g mature cheddar cheese, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup/135g all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold water
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 tsp dried thyme

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter, cheese and pepper until it comes together in a soft ball.  If you're making these for adults you could throw in a pinch or two of salt as well.  With mixer on low-speed, slowly add flour.  Mixture will become dry and crumbly.  Add two tablespoons of water, one tablespoon at a time.  Beat until mixture just comes together into a ball. The dough should be moist but not wet, so don't add more than another tbsp of water or so if necessary.  Add garlic powder and thyme and knead into the dough.  Wrap cracker dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.  The dough can also be frozen for future use.

While dough chills, place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 F/190C.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough very thin, about an eighth of an inch thick.  Dot center of cracker with a fork or the end of a paint brush.  Place crackers on prepared baking sheets.  The pieces can be close together as they won’t expand much when baking.  Bake for 13 to 15 minutes until fragrant, golden brown, and crisp.  Allow to cool before serving.

The crackers can be stored in an airtight container for two or three days, but I doubt they will last that long.