Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Cheez-ies

The Lee Brothers of southern cooking fame made goldfish crackers a pure thing—all natural ingredients.  From there bloggers everywhere saw the potential for cheez-its. Before Cheez-its were boxed up by a corporate kitchen they were mini cheese crackers baked up with real cheese and lots of it.

Here’s my version, made holiday ready with mini-cookie cutters in snowman, tree and star patterns (as well as the traditional square with center hole).  Pick a cookie cutter pattern that benefits from little holes poked into the dough with a skewer.  It helps the cheese puff more evenly and provides an artistic touch to your work. 

This is an easy dough to make and work with.  Kids will enjoy helping.  If the dough stays out a while and becomes too pliable put it the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. This dough is like pie pastry and likes to be kept chilled.  You can also cut out the cheez-ies then chill the cut-outs on the baking sheet in the freezer for about 5 minutes or for a few hours.  Bake as usual. 

Homemade Holiday Cheez-ies
Yield: never enough

1 1/2 (6 ounces) cups grated hard cheese*
4 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 cup flour (all purpose or whole wheat)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 tablespoons milk (or light cream)

Method
  1. Preheat  oven to 350˚F. 
  2. Place cheese, butter, flour, salt and spices in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is just combined and the flour mixture looks a bit crumbly.  
  3. Add milk, a little at a time and pulse again.  Add more milk until dough just comes together. 
  4. Place dough on a floured surface or wax paper. Use lightly floured hands to form the dough into a flat disc, about 1 inch thick.  Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes or overnight.  
  5. When ready to bake cheez-ies, place dough on a floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 1/16 inch thick. Use mini cookie cutters to cut dough into shapes and transfer to a cookie sheet.  (You can also cut the dough into 1-inch squares using a knife or pasta wheel.) 
  6. With a skewer, poke a few holes into each cheez-ie either in the center or create a pattern that matches the shape.  (Buttons for the snowman, garland for the tree, etc.)
  7. Bake cheez-ies for 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.  Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack. 
Cooled cheez-ies should be stored in an air-tight container. They can be frozen and reheated in a warm oven (under 200˚F).
Cheez-ies are a grown-up cocktail snack but still kid friendly. They go well with soup and can even stand in as croutons in salads.