I avoid processed junk food as a general rule, preferring to make my own from scratch. This doesn’t mean there aren’t processed foods I find delicious; it just means I avoid buying them, because I know it’s hard to overcome the hard-wired human instinct to consume as much fat, salt, and sugar as possible. Or in my case, an entire box of Cheez-Its.
So I never buy Cheez-Its anymore (but I am still guilty of the occasional box of Cheddar Bunnies.) To compensate, I developed an obsession with making my own from scratch. After several test batches over the years, I’ve finally tweaked the recipe enough to capture my favorite things about Cheez-Its. And then make them even better.
Of course, that means they’re just as fatty and salt-laden as the store-bought kind (probably even more so.) But at least you know what’s in them.
These crackers call for a lot of shredded cheese, much more than I would want to shred by hand. So if you have a food processor sitting in your cabinet, this is a great time to break it out. I got a shredder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer several years ago, and I think I’ve used it enough by now to pay for itself a few times over.
But even if you’ve only got a handheld grater, I promise you these crackers are totally worth it. They’re a bit of a project anyway, so if an extra 10 minutes of grating are a deal breaker for you, then you may not have the patience to make these delectable, cheesy little crackers.
But I think you do. So save this recipe for the next time you find yourself with a rainy day and a big block of cheese. Or make them immediately.
I made them again last weekend, in an attempt to keep myself busy as we waited to lock down the incubator. And, you know, so we have something to eat while we watch the chicks hatch in a couple days. If they last that long.
You can use your favorite small cookie cutter, or for square crackers just put the rolled dough on a cookie sheet and cut it into squares with a dough cutter or sharp knife. Both ways are equally delicious, but if you go the knife route you won’t have to deal with scraps (also known as making cheese straws.)
This time, I used my tiny chick cookie cutter to make bite-sized crackers.
This makes a huge recipe, which can easily be halved. But be warned: These crackers disappear fast, and they take a while to make. So you might as well make a big batch now and save yourself some trouble later. This is a great rainy day project that kids can help out with, too.
- 7 tbsp butter
- 2 eggs
- 6 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar (I used Dubliner)
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp sea salt, plus additional for tops
- 1/2 cup ground raw almonds (I use a blender or food processor)
- 1 tbsp ground mustard
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold filtered water
- Rolling pin
- Small cookie cutter
- Stand mixer with dough hook, or food processor
- Racks (for cooling)
- Melt butter in the microwave and allow to cool as you gather the other ingredients.
- In mixer bowl or food processor, mix flour, ground mustard, paprika, baking powder, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
- In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs and butter.
- Slowly stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, or pulse in the food processor.
- Add cheese and almonds, and continue to stir until the dough forms a coarse meal.
- Add the water as needed, a bit at a time, until the dough comes together into a single ball.
- On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into eight equal pieces.
- Shape each piece into a square about 8 inches wide, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375F, with the racks set in the upper and lower thirds.
- Take out one piece of dough (leave others in the fridge) and roll it out until it's about 1/4-1/8" thickness. You want it to be as thin and as uniform as possible -- the thinner the dough, the crisper the cracker.
- Prick the dough all over using the tines of the fork, being sure to go all the way through.
- Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
- Cut the dough into your desired shape.
- Move cut dough to a cookie sheet, and re-roll the scraps if using a cookie cutter. Only do this once, after that the dough will get a little tough (but you can still roll it out one more time to make cheese straws.)
- Place the pans in the oven and set a timer for 3 minutes.
- Switch pans every 3 minutes, removing crackers to a rack as they brown. You'll need to babysit the pans and keep a close eye on them, particularly if some of your crackers are thinner than others. I start removing mine at 8 minutes, but it depends on your oven and the thickness of your dough.
- Thicker crackers may taste doughy and undercooked once they cool, these can go back into the oven for a few minutes.
- Put crackers in an airtight container out of sight of family members (and yourself)