There are two very big silver-maple trees in our backyard, one of which always holds onto its leaves for dear life, as if to let them go might be painful.
But the wind that swooshed in last week, compliments of Sandy, stripped most of them off within a day or two. The yard is now cushioned like a feather bed with its leaves. You can hardly spot a patch of grass anywhere.
I know winter is on its way when that stubborn tree is almost bare. The leaves on the ground are so dried out, and so thickly layered, they positively crunch underfoot. It's like walking on a field of saltines, or maybe thousands of Wheat Thins.
Hey . . . did someone just mention crackers?
About this recipe . . .
Adapted from Gourmet, these babies are addictive. Once your cracker-loving friends and family get samples, they'll keep coming back for more, so anticipate the demand. Make a lot.
What aspects of the recipe did I change? The original formula called for 3 parts white flour and 1 part cornmeal, but I decided to use a combo of mostly white flour, a little rye flour for added flavor, and just a wee smidgen of cornmeal so that mealy aspect would be limited. I also used Parmigiano Reggiano cheese along with some sharp cheddar, instead of using all cheddar, and I added in a couple pinches of dried thyme, well crushed, as well as a dab of garlic powder. And, I upped the baking powder slightly because, gosh, the spirit moved me.
I decided, just for the heck of it, to cut mine out with a scalloped-edge cookie cutter, but feel free to simply cut your rolled-out dough with a pastry wheel if you like, leaving far fewer dough scraps. That would also allow you to avoid transferring your unbaked crackers to another surface, one by one, as I had to do. Bake them long enough, and they'll be quite crispy and dark golden brown around the edges, which is what you want if you're going for maximum crunch.
These crackers smell ferociously good when they're baking, just so you know. (Forewarned is forearmed, theoretically at least.)
Parmesan-Cheddar Crackers with Poppy Seeds
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Yield: Makes approximately 6 dozen crackers
3/4 cup and 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons rye flour
1 tablespoon well-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (I used Holland Blue poppy seeds from Penzey's.)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup (half of one stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into very small chunks
1/2 cup well grated parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.)
1/2 cup well grated sharp or extra-sharp yellow cheddar cheese
4 to 5 tablespoons very cold water
1 egg, large
1 tablespoon water
fine sea salt
In a big bowl, whisk together the white flour, rye flour, cornmeal, poppy seeds, and baking powder. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, or use your fingertips, until the mixture has lots of small coarse lumps. Add in all of the grated cheese, and mix with a fork. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the cold water evenly over the dry ingredients, and stir with the fork until well distributed. Add in the final tablespoon of water if it still seems really dry.
Dump your dough out onto a clean work surface, and smear the dough away from you a few times to distribute the fat. Now, use a scraper to gather all the dough together again and shape it into a ball. Cut the ball in half. Press each half into a disk about 1" thick, and wrap the halves in plastic wrap. Let them rest in the fridge for an hour or so.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Or roll your dough directly onto the paper or onto mats, if you're not using a cookie cutter. See "Or, alternately," in the instructions below).
On a floured piece of parchment or a rolling mat or a pastry cloth, roll out one of your dough disks using a floured rolling pin (leaving the other disk refrigerated while you work with the first disk). Try to roll the dough evenly, so it's no more than 1/8th of an inch thick all over. Cut the dough with small, simply-shaped, cookie cutters of your choice and place the pieces on your prepared baking surface, lifting them with a thin offset spatula. (Or, alternately, roll your dough disk out directly onto the parchment sheet or silicone sheet upon which it will bake, and use a pastry wheel or sharp knife to slice the crackers into rows in both directions.)
Pierce each unbaked cracker with the tines of a fork; this will help the crackers lay flat and keep their shape as they bake.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the 1 tablespoon of water. Use a pastry brush, or even your index finger, to lightly coat each cracker. This egg wash will make the cracker tops nicely shiny and help them to brown.
Take a pinch of fine sea salt and sprinkle a tiny bit on each cracker (remember, the cheese in the crackers is pretty salty too, so you don't need much added salt).
Bake the crackers until they're deeply golden on the bottom and on the edges. This might take 12 to 15 minutes or more. If you want to help ensure crispness, turn the oven off when they're done and let the crackers sit in there for another minute or two. Let the crackers cool on the baking sheets, or if the crackers are on parchment, slide that off onto a cooling rack. Keep the cooled crackers in an airtight container.
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