Parmesan Thyme Crackers

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes

Of all the dishes and items that I’ve been wanting to make at home rather than purchase from a store (pasta and croissants, for example), crackers just never seemed to cross my mind. Not that I reach for those bright red boxes of Cheez-Its very often anyway, but once I saw these homemade crackers on Dinner of Herbs, I decided that I would give it a go. Plus, they would be the perfect addition to the picnic I was packing for a girls’ night out at the Hollywood Bowl. As it turned out, they were easy to make while seeming deceptively impressive to friends and guests.

Parmesan Thyme Crackers

Parmesan Thyme Crackers

Instead of wheat crackers, however, I ended up using this Smitten Kitchen recipe for the basic dough ratios and took off from there. Parmesan and thyme sounded like a great classic combination for those starting out, and they certainly blow those neon orange assembly-line squares out of the water! But soon, I’ll try my luck at some more daring flavor combinations – perhaps parmesan, parsley, and truffle salt, like a deconstructed order of truffle frites. Oh, I can feel the wheels turning…

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup grated parmesan

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for sprinkling

1-2 teaspoons dried thyme

1/4 cup cream (I watered down heavy whipping cream and it worked fine; you can use half & half as well)

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Mark Bittman of the NY Times)

Step 1: Pulse

Step 1: Pulse

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, parmesan, butter, salt, and thyme. Continue pulsing until the butter has been broken down and the mixture resembles finely crushed breadcrumbs.

Step 2: The Well

Step 2: The Well

Step 2: Cover your work area with a large sheet of parchment paper. Turn out the contents of the food processor and make a well in the center. Add the cream.

Step 3: The Dough

Step 3: The Dough

Step 3: Knead gently to distribute the cream. There should be just enough moisture that it comes together like a dough. If it is still crumbly, add more cream or water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Step 4: Roll

Step 4: Roll

Step 4: Roll the dough into a thin sheet, no thicker than 1/4 inch. If the dough starts to stick to the rolling pin, lightly dust with flour.

Step 5: Cut

Step 5: Cut

Step 5: Using a pizza cutter or pastry wheel, cut the rolled-out dough into square pieces, approximately 1 to 1.5-inches. Don’t worry about the rough edges – you can either ball up the scraps, re-roll, and re-cut, or just bake them as is. Imperfect crackers are still delicious crackers.

Step 6: Arrange

Step 6: Arrange

Step 6: Arrange the crackers about an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. They will rise and puff up a bit while baking.

Step 7: Dock

Step 7: Dock

Step 7: Using the tines of a fork, gently dock each cracker a few times to prevent them from puffing up into pillows.

Step 8: Bake

Step 8: Bake

Step 8: Sprinkle with a bit of salt (I used Himalayan pink salt). Bake in the 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes. I rotated the pans halfway through (swapping the trays that were on the top and bottom racks and turning them 180 degrees before returning to the oven) to promote even baking.

Step 9: Cool

Step 9: Cool

Step 9: Let the baked crackers cool on a wire rack. You can serve them warm, but if you plan to store them for later, wait until they are completely cooled and transfer them to an airtight container.

Step 10: Enjoy!

Step 10: Enjoy!

Step 10: Bon appetit! These homemade crackers are more dense and crumbly than the store-bought kind, and they are packed full of flavor. Great on their own for snacking or as accompaniments to a charcuterie board at your next wine & cheese party. Try it – you’ll never go back to buying those cardboard boxes again. Yields about 40 crackers.

nomnomcat print button

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. I, for one, am glad to have tried making homemade crackers, and you can bet that I’ve since left that aisle of the grocery store and will never look back. In fact, I’ve already made this recipe twice in the past few weeks!

This month is hosted by Marija at Palachinka.

Cheers!

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Limoncello & Semolina Cookies

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Ever since shortly after we graduated high school, my best friend and I have not lived on the same coast. Luckily we have this thing called the Internet, and in college, much of my extra spending money was saved up for the occasional jaunt to New York to visit and catch up. I know, what does this have to do with the cookies? I’m getting to it.

You can take the boy out of southern California but you can never really take southern California out of the boy. As he moved from cold-weather-state to cold-weather-state, I knew he missed home and the sunshine. One day, knowing of my love for limoncello and baking, he sent me this recipe that had been adapted from an Italian cookbook. In retrospect, I think he was also not-so-subtly hinting at me to send him a care package.

If you don’t have semolina on hand, I discovered that you can substitute Cream of Wheat, 1:1. I also found that being a bit more generous with the limoncello helps the cookies really sing with that lemony goodness. Not to mention that adding some extra lemon zest helps to yield cookies that are just like brilliant rays of sunshine bursting out of a USPS Medium Sized Flat Rate Box.

Fresh from the oven - golden drops of sunshine

Fresh from the oven – golden drops of sunshine

So here’s the recipe, with my tweaks, for the cookies that are so good that they have been requested for cross-country delivery. (And many thanks to Brian of Clinton Hill Foodie for sharing his recipe for a sweet treat that’s surely cheered up a homesick friend on many occasions.)

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of semolina (or Cream of Wheat, original flavor)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil (if you have it on hand, try the Meyer Lemon oil from Global Gardens!)
1 cup white (granulated) sugar, plus extra for rolling the balls of dough
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 lemon, zested and juiced (plus the zest of 1 more lemon, optional)
3 tablespoons limoncello
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Yields 60 small cookies if making 1-inch diameter spheres of dough

Dry Stuff

Dry Stuff

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Before

Before

After

After

Creamed butter

Creamed butter

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter with the sugar and olive oil. Forget to leave the butter out on the counter to soften? I do that all the time! I don’t have great foresight when it comes to baking. But after the croissant making class we took at Elle A Cooking, we learned a spiffy trick to get straight-out-of-the-fridge butter soft and ready to go. If you’re using the whole stick of butter (we are in this recipe), leave it in its wrapping and whack it a few times with a rolling pin. Alternatively, you can place the butter between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper and do the same thing. Pounding it out somehow softens it enough for creaming. Probably something to do with kinetic energy, like warming up before you work out. Shrug.

Spiffy Lemon Covers

You can use these Spiffy Lemon Covers to catch the seeds!

Now add your lemon juice, limoncello, vanilla, and zest. It will look liquidy and the butter may look globby. It’s OK. Just mix together as best you can.

See? Globby.

See? Globby.

Slowly add the dry ingredients, stirring to combine until you a ball of dough starts to form. Mix well to incorporate all of the lemony goodness into the dough.

Ready for the chill!

Ready for the chill!

Set up a sheet of plastic wrap and pour out the dough to form a disc. Cover with more plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (2-3 hours would be even better, especially if your kitchen and/or house is on the warm side).

Mmm sugar....

Mmm sugar….

One hour later… preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Set up a plate or shallow dish with granulated sugar. Break off pieces of the chilled dough and roll between your palms into cute approximately 1-inch diameter spheres. Roll each sphere in the sugar to coat and then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The sugar will help give the cookies a wonderful crisp and crackle on the outside. The cookies do spread a little so leave about 1.5-2 inches between them. This batch of dough yielded 4 trays of 15 cookies.

Cutest tray of cookies ever!

Cutest tray of cookies ever!

Once you fill up 2 trays, place them in the oven and set a timer for 7 minutes. At this halfway point, swap the trays so that the tray on the top rack is now on the bottom one and vice versa. Also rotate the trays so that the side that was closest to the back of the oven is now at the front. Set the timer for an additional 7 minutes for a total of 14 minutes bake time.

Couldn't resist snapping a quick picture!

Couldn’t resist snapping a quick picture!

I know, I know – who wants to expend the extra effort? I used to skip this step too and bake the cookies for the full 14 minutes in one shot, but for this last batch, I went the extra mile and every cookie was a beautiful, perfect golden brown on the bottom. Totally worth it, so just do it.

Eventually transferred these to a cooling rack instead..

Eventually transferred these to a cooling rack instead..

Take the cookies out of the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. I initially left them on the parchment and simply moved them to cool on our countertop, but the heat creates a steamy condensation on the bottoms and starts making them soggy. They taste great fresh out of the oven and keep well in an airtight container left at room temperature for a few days… if they survive that long!

PS: We were inspired to whip up a batch after finding some beautiful golden Eureka lemons from Gonzaga Farms (the same people who sell stone fruit from Tenerelli Orchards) at last week’s farmer’s market.

PPS: This is also the first post in a series of alcohol-inspired or infused desserts I’m working on. Stay tuned!