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By Meghan Splawn
Tribune Content Agency
Cheese crackers, whether they are square or shaped like an animal, are highly snackable. They’re tender and crisp, a little buttery, and bursting with cheese flavor. Replicating these snack staples can be disappointing, as my 5-year-old told me often during attempt after attempt to make her beloved “cheddar bunnies” at home.
It wasn’t until I started adding cheddar cheese powder to a basic cheese cracker recipe and leaving the baked crackers in the oven to dry overnight, that I finally got my long-awaited thumbs-up of approval.
Which type of cheese crackers are these?
There are so many cheese crackers on the market that it’s important to get this cleared up right away. This crispy cheddar cheese cracker can be baked up into a tiny cracker or a square. The tiny animal-shaped crackers will puff in the oven and come out much like Goldfish crackers, while the squares are a little heartier and snack more like a Cheez-It.
How to make
crunchy cheese crackers
(that stay crunchy!)
Here’s the trouble with adding cheese to a cracker dough: Cheese is a wet ingredient, full of flavorful fat. When baked, the cheese oozes out some of its flavor and can help crisp the crackers (with the fat) or make them soggy (if the moisture isn’t drawn out). Two things will combat the cheese’s natural tendency to soften the crackers: Cheese powder and an overnight “dry” in the oven.
Cheese powder is dried and pulverized cheese. It absorbs the fresh cheese’s moisture and pumps up the cheesy flavor. You can skip it, but don’t expect a strong cheese flavor — and increasing the fresh cheese will just result in a greasy cracker.
So, you bake up these cheese crackers and they will be delicious out of the oven, but leave them out too long and they will get soft — even baking them to perfectly golden-brown won’t dry them completely. So here’s the trick: Once you’ve got all the crackers baked, remove them from the oven, then turn the oven off for at least an hour. Once it has cooled down, stick the cheese crackers back in the oven overnight (8 hours is just right). The low temp of the oven will drive out moisture and keep the crackers crisp.
A step-by-step guide
to making cheese
crackers at home
• Use your food processor: You can use your food processor for both grating the cheese and making the cracker dough if you switch from the grating disk to the blade. You can also make this dough with a box grater for the cheese and mixing the dough by hand — just work quickly to keep everything cool.
• Keep things cold: Roll out the dough, then chill; it will roll out more easily and chill faster.
• Re-rolling is good! Cut the crackers to desired shapes, and re-roll and cut more crackers until all of the dough is used. The last few crackers won’t be tough — in fact they tend to puff a little more.
• Choose your shape: You can use a cute little cookie cutter for making shapes, or use a pizza cutter to make squares. For full Cheez-It effect, use a skewer to make an indent in the middle of the square. This helps them bake more evenly.
• Crowding the pan is OK! The crackers won’t spread in the oven, so feel free to get them as close together as you like. Once the crackers are baked, let them cool at room temperature for an hour while the oven cools, and then you can consolidate the crackers onto fewer baking sheets to dry them in the oven.
Makes about 12 dozen crackers
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cheddar cheese powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
6 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, preferably orange
2 tablespoons cold water
Kosher salt, for sprinkling (optional)
1. Measure the dry ingredients and butter. Place the flour, cheese powder, salt, paprika, garlic powder, and butter in a large bowl. Set aside.
2. Grate the cheese with the shredding disc. Grate the cheese in a food processor fitted with the shredding disc.
3. Toss the cheese with the flour mixture and swap food processor attachments. Transfer the cheese to the flour mixture and toss to combine. Replace the shredding disc with the regular blade attachment.
4. Pulse the dry ingredients and butter. Transfer the flour-cheese mixture back to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse to a coarse crumb, about 10 (1-second) pulses.
5. Add the water to make a dough. Add the water and process until the dough forms a ball, about 20 seconds.
6. Roll out the cracker dough. Remove the dough from the food processor and form into a rectangle. Place between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll out to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick so that it just fits onto a standard baking sheet.
7. Chill the cracker dough. Slide the dough, still sandwiched between parchment, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
8. Heat the oven and cut the crackers. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 F. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and use it to line a second baking sheet. Use a ruler and a pizza cutter to cut 1-inch squares in the dough. Use the blunt end of a wooden skewer to dock a hole in the center of each cracker. This will keep the crackers from puffing up in the center. (Alternatively cut shapes out with mini cookie cutters.)
9. Bake and cool. Use a bench scraper or mini offset spatula to transfer the crackers to the other parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch between each cracker. Sprinkle the crackers very lightly with salt if desired. Bake until the corners and the bottoms of the crackers are lightly browned and the tops appear dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack. Repeat with baking the remaining dough. Turn off the oven.
10. Optional crisping step. To ensure the crackers stay crisp after baking and drive out excess moisture that may cause mold, wait until the oven has been off for 1 hour. Consolidate the crackers onto 1 baking sheet, then return them to the cooling oven and “dry” overnight, at least 8 hours.
Storage: Store baked crackers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.