Welcome back to your own space, Julie! I do so appreciate everyone’s patience, I’ve been working on some technical upgrades, and I’m abominably slow at such things – I’ll blame the blatant nepotism in my high school’s computer science department (I learned NOTHING!).
I should update you on my kitchen (mis)adventures though! I made a tart, because I said I would finally master tarts in 2018. I specifically want to master getting the crust right and even, with the right folding and trimming techniques. So for my first tart I used a graham cracker crust, where you just dump the crumbs into the tart shell and shove them up onto the sides. Clearly.
But I also used some phyllo dough, in my first 2018 attempt to become the master of my own phyllo fears. And… I’m still a bit afraid of that stuff. I attempted a Moroccan Bisteeya, and it was a hot mess. The first sheet tore beyond usability, but I managed to layer the rest somewhat okay. But then I had to flip the entire pie, which was quite traumatizing, but at least the final result was incredibly tasty, if not the least bit pretty. I’ll be back, phyllo dough.
But now for a technique I mastered long ago, and think every home cook should have in their back pocket: homemade crackers. Learning to make my own crackers improved my life exponentially.
Well… I should define “exponentially” right? I mean, homemade crackers have not paid off the remainder of my student loans, they haven’t dissuaded my cat from eating tape, and they haven’t yet invented self-cleaning bathrooms. But they are an extremely cool trick to have up one’s sleeve, and they do specifically improve your cracker consumption experience. Homemade crackers generally taste much better than store-bought, they do not contain unpronounceable ingredients, nor will they have trans fat or high fructose corn syrup. Plus you get this swollen feeling of outsized accomplishment every time, which is a nice little ego boost that maybe you needed after say, a bad day at work. Or losing an argument to a toddler. I say outsized because once you discover how ridiculously easy it is to make crackers, you realize you can only take so much credit for yourself and your mad skills. But we won’t tell anyone.
These particular crackers are bar food, plain and simple, especially with this addition of pub cheese. Which of course begs the question: what is pub cheese? Basically it’s a spicy cheese spread, where shredded cheddar is beaten with beer and other spicy ingredients – usually mustard, sometimes horseradish, and there’s always raw onion in there, just to drive home the point. It’s origin? No one seems to really know or agree. Maybe England! Or maybe Kentucky. Researching it was mildly frustrating so I quit early and made another batch. Hey, as long as it’s delicious, right?
SOURCE: Bake from Scratch by Brian Hart Hoffman
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
3 tbs toasted sesame seeds
¾ tsp kosher salt
3 tbs olive oil
½ cup plus 1 tbs room temperature IPA beer, divided
Coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel
PUB CHEESE SPREAD:
1 (8 oz.) brick extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
½ small shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ cup room temperature IPA
1 tbs thinly sliced chives, plus more for garnish
Make the CRACKERS: preheat the oven to 400 F.
In the bowl of a food processor, place both flours, sesame seeds, and kosher salt; pulse until combined. With the processor running, slowly add oil. Add ½ cup beer and process until the dough forms a ball.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 2 or 3 times. Divide dough in half. Roll half the dough into a 12-inch square. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut dough into 2-inch squares. Poke each cracker in the center with a wooden skewer or meat thermometer. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Transfer the cracker squares to the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Lightly brush the crackers with the remaining 1 tbs beer and sprinkle with the sea salt.
Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking. Let cool completely on pans.
Meanwhile, make the PUB CHEESE SPREAD: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat Cheddar, shallot, garlic, mustard, and cayenne at low speed until combined. Slowly add beer and chives. Beat at medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Right before you serve it, garnish the top with some snipped chives.