One Bowl Baking: Cheesy Smoked Paprika Crackers
When I was a culinary school student, I asked the chef instructor if our class was going to get to make crackers. "No," he replied. "Crackers are far too complicated to make by hand."
I'm not really sure why he said that, because crackers can be the easiest thing in the world to make, and the flavor is incomparable to anything boxed. Nothing will impress your guests more than a freshly baked homemade cracker to serve during cocktail hour.
There are many different ways to make this crunchy, savory snack. Some recipes have yeast (like the classic soda cracker), some are basically an extra thin flatbread dough that's baked up nice and crisp, and some recipes are merely a short dough (fat is cut into the flour to tenderize it) with heaps of salty, savory add-ins. Personally, I usually go for the short dough variety: it's my go-to cracker for when I don't have the time to wait for a dough to rise. To make the short dough type of cracker, simply mix the ingredients into a dough, chill until firm, then cut into shapes and bake. That, my fellow bakers, is as simple as a cookie.
I recently came across a recipe in a beautifully shot food blog that inspired me to bake up a fresh batch. The blog is Drizzle and Dip and the author is Sam Linsell. I'm a sucker for anything smoked, and Sam has a family recipe for smoked pepper cheese biscuits (similar to crackers in our neck of the woods) that I couldn't resist. Equal parts cheese, butter, and flour? These had to taste good. And since the dough could be easily mixed by hand, these hit my target of an easy, one bowl recipe.
To make these even easier, instead of rolling out the dough and cutting it into shapes, I rolled the dough into a log and sliced and baked. With the high ratio of butter, sharp cheddar, and Parmesan to flour in this recipe, the dough is super short, resulting in a tender dough and a light and delicate texture to the crackers. To get the sturdiest crackers possible, make sure you don't underbake them—these need to be really golden and crisp. A sprinkle of smoked salt or sea salt brings out all the flavors of these super cheesy, addictive crackers. Break open a nice bottle of wine and start snacking.
About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of the new cookbook One Bowl Baking: Simple From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts (Running Press, October 2013), and available at Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Powell's, The Book Depository. Watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. Follow her Chocoholic, Chicken Dinners, Singapore Stories and One Bowl Baking columns on Serious Eats. Follow Yvonne on Twitter as she explores Singapore.