Saturday, June 8, 2013

Guest Post: Old Bay Cheese Crackers

This weekend, I want to welcome a good friend, Martine, as my guest blogger. She's an amazing (!) cook & is always trying something new in her kitchen. In fact, be sure to go check out her awesome vegetarian food blog. I am thrilled that she offered to guest blog for me (and keep an eye out because I'll be guest blogging something for her this month too!).
Despite being born and raised in Maryland, I've never eaten crab. What can I say? I was a bit of a picky kid, and then I became a vegetarian fairly early in life. And you know, when I hear people gushing about crab season, I think I'm probably better off not knowing what I'm missing. As a way to cope, I've convinced myself that what everyone's actually excited about is just using the crabs as a vessel to consume hypertension-inducing quantities of Old Bay.

Like any Marylander, I'll pour Old Bay over my french fries and popcorn. I'll put it on anything involving eggs. I'll dump it in a bloody mary, and I even used it to infuse vodka for holiday gifts last year. I brought a can with me when I studied abroad in college because I couldn't bear the thought of five months without it.

And yet, non-Marylanders just don't seem to have the same fervor for my spice blend of choice. My main squeeze Andrew, who is from Ohio, claims that his mother has had the same dusty can in her kitchen cabinet for "probably like twenty years." How does that happen?

Old Bay and sharp cheddar is one of my favorite combinations, so it only made sense to add it to a zippy cheese cracker. I like to use the 30% less sodium version, but the regular will work -- you just will want to start at 1/2 a teaspoon and give your dough a taste test before adding more, because the cheese is very salty as well. This recipe is adapted from smitten kitchen's cheese straws.

Prep time: 20 minutes active, 30 minutes passive
Cook time: 10 to 12 minutes

6 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon 30% Less Sodium Old Bay
3/4 cup all purpose flour

Additional 30% Less Sodium Old Bay, for sprinkling

Grate the cheese using the grating disc on your food processor. Remove grating disc and replace with the S-blade.
Add remaining ingredients to the bowl of the food processor, then process until dough comes together to form a ball.
Knead briefly by hand to bring dough together, then roll into a ball and flatten slightly into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Remove chilled dough from fridge. Let sit for a minute or two to become workable if needed.
Roll out to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured work surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Then use a pizza cutter to cut into 1-inch squares. Re-roll uneven scraps if you're neurotic and don't want any raggedy crackers.
Poke a hole in each cracker with the blunt end of a bamboo skewer. This will prevent them from puffing up too much in the oven. Then sprinkle evenly with additional Old Bay.
Transfer each cracker to the lined baking sheets. An offset spatula, like one you would use to frost a cake, is very useful for this. You can put them pretty close together since they puff up rather than spread.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. Switch and rotate baking sheet positions halfway through if your oven heats unevenly.
Remove from oven, let sit on the baking sheets for 1 minute to firm up slightly, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely -- crackers will become crispier as they cool.
Store in an airtight container.

Martine is a 26 year old Maryland native who has lived in the Baltimore area for almost 9 years. As of this year, she has crossed the threshold of being a vegetarian for longer than she wasn't. She lives with the coolest ferret, Sybil, and a moderately cool domestic partner, Andrew. If you'd like to read about the food she makes and eats, she blogs at stuffed grapes.