Vermont Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Made with extra sharp Vermont Cheddar, homemade crackers taste better than any you’ve ever bought in a box. Remarkably, they cost about the same. The real proof is the taste. These crackers are baked long enough for the cheese to start caramelizing. The dough is smooth, pliable, and far easier to work than pie pastry. The potato flour blocks the formation of gluten, which not only helps produce a superior cracker, but easily modeled dough. It can be rolled very thin, and still be handled without falling apart or being sticky. If you like big results with little effort try these crackers.

1¼ cups all-purpose flour (150 g)
¼ cup potato starch (30 g)
½ cup (one stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pats (113 g)
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated (225 g)
1 tsp salt (4 mL)
½ tsp mustard powder (0.5 mL)
Pinch cayenne
3 Tbsp cold water (45 mL)

Put all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Run the machine until the mixture becomes a smooth dough, about 30 seconds. Turn the dough onto a counter and shape into a rectangular block. Put into a plastic bag and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400° F (205° C)
Cut pieces of parchment paper that fit your baking sheets. I used 2 half-sheet pans, so mine were cut 11½ inches by 15 inches (30 by 38 cm) (the brand of paper I have comes 15 inches wide). Put the parchment paper on your counter and dust lightly with flour. Cut the dough in half and place a block on each piece of parchment paper. Dust the dough lightly with flour.

Roll out the dough to a little less than 1/8 inch. It should almost fill the parchment. Trim the edges with a dough-cutter or pizza-cutter so the crackers have a reasonably uniform shape. Gather the trimmings and work back into a pliable dough. Roll out this dough on another sheet of parchment, cut into strips, and place on the parts of your sheet pan that will accommodate them.

Use a pizza-cutter to cut the dough into squares of 1½ inches. I pricked half of the crackers with a fork so that they wouldn’t rise as much, and left the others unmarked. When you mix them up in a bowl, they provide a nice visual and textural contrast.

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes on the center shelf of a preheated oven. The crackers will be cooked through after 12 minutes or so, but will be soft and chewy. They are far better if you cook them until they are all lightly browned. The cheese starts to caramelize, and the crackers become crisp and highly redolent of caramelized cheddar. Cooking time is dependent on whether you are using steel or aluminum sheet pans, the size and shape of your oven, and whether the oven is calibrated accurately. This batch made 85 crackers.

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