Crackers: Parmesan Thyme and Cheddar Pecan
I have had the idea of making crackers in the back of my mind for about a year. It seems like such an unexpected way to add just a little bit of "wow" to that homemade dip. Problem is, we never entertain because our apartment is almost too small for two adults and one 50 pound pooch. This T-gives (as my sister calls it) was spent just north of The City at a good friend's house along with 35 of her closest family. A warmer, more welcoming group of people you will never meet, so I thought I'd better bring some edibles along to make sure we get an invite back. I made two kinds of crackers and a dip, which will be blogged at a slightly later date.
Now, the crackers. I had seen Ina Garten's recipe for Parmesan and Thyme Crackers from her book Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics on one of my favorite blogs: Dana Treat. Dana had assured me that for ease of preparation and wonderful flavor, these crackers are where it's at. And, um, she was right. They were gone in no time and were the hands down favorite of the two. Just be sure that as you form the dough into a ball (to be rolled into a log) that you give it a little kneading-love so that it really comes together and doesn't crumble as you try to roll. Make these. You won't be sorry.
Parmesan Thyme Crackers
From Ina Garten via Dana Treat
1 stick butter at room temperature
4 oz grated Parmesan (Dana suggested buying the pre-grated which I did. You should too)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cup flour
With an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. The mixer should be on low speed as you add the cheese, thyme, salt and pepper. Once combined, add the flour and continue to mix until the dough is in large crumbles, should take about 1 minute more. You can add 1 teaspoon of water if it's too dry.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and press it into a smooth ball. Roll into a 9" log and wrap the log in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and up to 4 days.
Oven preheated to 350. Cut the log into 3/8" rounds with a sharp knife and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes until lightly golden brown. Cool on racks and serve.
For the second flavor, I chose a recipe from the Gourmet cookbook, one of those monster tomes that you could probably cook from forever without repeating anything. These Cheddar Pecan Crackers were much more like a savory cookie than the parmesan ones from Dana. They were flaky and buttery and very indulgent. Overall, the parmesan crackers were the clear favorites, but these were quite good as well. Both went perfectly with the dip that I'll let you in on soon. Enjoy!
Cheddar Pecan Crackers
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups grated cheddar, about 8 ounces
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
Oven preheated to 350. Grease two baking sheets.
Beat the butter and Cheddar with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in remaining ingredients. Roll rounded teaspoons into balls of dough and arrange on the baking sheet. Flatten each ball (I found the easiest way to do this was with the back of my knuckles) into a 1 1/2" disk. The crackers won't spread a lot while baking. Gourmet says to bake one sheet at a time, but I didn't really find this to be necessary, and simply rotated the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Cool on a rack.