As we all know, it's almost all about the cookies and sweets during the holiday season. I love seeing big cookie platters brimming with cookies of all kinds, shapes, sizes, and colors. That said, I do like to venture away from the sugar jar on occasion and make at least one savory treat to share with friends and neighbors and to have as a nibble for our holiday gathering. Usually, it involves nuts in some form. This year, I thought I'd try a batch of cheddar cheese coins.
I used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen that I've been meaning to try for a couple of holidays seasons now. Sometimes it just takes years to get to something! As with any cheese crackers made with a handful of ingredients, it's all about the cheese. I picked an organic grass-fed sharp cheddar that I really liked.
I substituted a-third of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour (with all the cheese and butter, who's going to notice!) and while there's some room for customization in terms of spices you can add, I stuck with paprika and cayenne for my first go-round since I often reach for that combination when I'm cooking. Those spices helped give my cheese coins a golden color despite using white cheddar.
I have seen many cheese crackers made on TV and heard many testimonials about how easy they are to prepare. It's true...but working with dough (as in pie, biscuit type doughs) is something I struggle with. How do you get to the point of feeling the dough and just knowing when it's right? I wish I had those instincts. And I need a lot more practice! If I ever take another cooking class, I should pick one for working with that type of dough.
So in the case of making this particular dough, the method is simple - pulse, pulse...combine. After all the ingredients have been pulsed together in a food processor, you remove it to a bowl, add water, and pull the dough together with your hands. I was afraid I over-handled the dough and I certainly had some air pockets in my logs but I was happy to see the cracker rounds bake up neatly. They were crisp on the outside and obviously buttery and very cheesy. Good cheese can mask imperfections.
Looking at these, my husband and I kept thinking hash browns...like cheesy hash browns, which might sound odd but isn't such a bad thing at all. One of the best things about recipes like this is the make-ahead factor. The logs can be made a couple of days ahead and kept in the refrigerator, or frozen for a month. That's a good thing since cheese crackers/coins like these are best fresh, eaten the day they're made.
You might even find recipes for cheese "pennies", which is essentially the same thing. Ideally, you want these coins to be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Mine were a tad wider (typically what happens to me when rolling dough into logs). After shaping the logs, I placed them inside a paper towel tube to help them keep their round shape.
I sliced the coins about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick but you could make them thinner and adjust it to your preference. These small crackers are great as a hor d'Oeuvres to go with drinks for a holiday party. I've saved some in my freezer for just that!
Cheddar Cheese Coins
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
- Makes approximately 5 dozen coins, depending on thickness -
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
Slightly rounded 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-4 tablespoons water
Place all ingredients, except the water, into a food processor. Pulse until combined, about 12 pulses or so. Remove contents to a large bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons water over the mixture. Squeeze dough together with your hands to form a ball, adding more water as necessary. Form the dough into two 9 to 10-inch logs. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (I like to place each in a paper towel tube to help them stay nice and round) and refrigerate for at least a 1 hour. You can store the dough logs in the refrigerator for 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month (thaw in refrigerator before using).
To bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees with racks set in the upper and lower-middle positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice logs into 1/4 inch thick coins (I like to slice off the ends or reserve those as cook's treats) and place onto baking sheets, set about 1-inch apart. Bake until deep golden brown, about 15-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway. Let coins cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheets before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely. The cheese coins are best served fresh, eaten the day they're made.