Thursday, May 24, 2012

Whole Wheat Cheddar Crackers


There are few foods quite as delightful as really good bread and really good cheese, and anything that combines the two is likely to fill my heart with joy. These crackers come from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.  They’re on the healthy side (as far as crackers go), with whole-wheat flour and not too much butter, but they pack in so much cheddar flavor that you don’t feel like you’re “being good” by eating them.  They’re also super-easy to make, with the dough coming together in minutes – perfect if you want something that feels comforting and homemade without being fussy.  In regards to fussiness, though, I will say that you want to choose a very strong-flavored cheddar.  Extra-sharp is preferable, plus entirely snack-able should you “accidentally” grate too much.

Whole Wheat Cheddar Crackers
     Adapted precious little from Melissa Clark

1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature or softened (not melted!) in the microwave
½ teaspoon salt
pinch of Cayenne pepper (or a hefty pinch if your Cayenne is over a decade old like mine)
6 ounces (about 1½ cups) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Place ½ cup of the shredded cheese in the refrigerator for later use.  Mix together the flour and baking powder; set aside.  Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the salt and Cayenne until combined, making sure it is smooth, with no lumps of hard butter. Add 1 cup of the cheese, and beat until the shreds are well broken up and the mixture looks somewhat homogeneous.  With the mixer running slowly, sprinkle in the flour mixture, and mix, stopping to scrape the sides and beater until combined.  (Mine looked very lumpy at this point.)  Then, run the mixer at a higher speed, beating until the dough forms a smooth mass that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  (The recipe said this would take about 7 minutes, but mine came together in 30 seconds.  Maybe I was being overzealous with the speed dial, but the final product indicated no suffering from my speediness.)

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic, and using the plastic as an aid, roll the dough into a log about 1½ inches in diameter.  Wrap it up in the plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

When you’re ready to bake the crackers, preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take out your dough, and slice it into coins 3/16” thick.  Place the crackers on the baking sheet, and put a pinch of the reserved cheese onto each one.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown, then turn off the oven and let them stay cozy in there for 5 more minutes.  This will help them get crisp.  Remove the crackers from the oven, and let them cool on a wire rack.

Note: these can also be made in a food processor, but I haven’t tried it myself.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mustard - Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I don’t know what possessed me to buy a 2-lb. bag of Brussels sprouts when there are only two people in my household who actually like Brussels sprouts.  Fortunately, my Mom’s a trooper about eating my experiments (and at least pretending to like them).  Also fortunate is the fact that mustard makes Brussels sprouts delicious.

I first tried this combination in the form of Dijon-braised Brussels sprouts via, but when I finally got around to using up the aging second pound of sprouts, it was a lazy afternoon when I didn’t feel like standing at the stove for any length of time.  So I decided to riff on the idea and oven roast the sprouts with a hefty dose of both Dijon and whole-grain mustard.  A couple garlic cloves and less than half an hour in the oven created a sweet, yet salty and pungent browned coating on the sprouts.  Roasting seemed to concentrate but mellow the flavors in delightful way, and I was surprised to find that I liked these sprouts even better than their braised cousins.

Mustard-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 small cloves garlic, minced fine (I used a garlic press)
scant ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place halved Brussels sprouts in bowl.  Mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl, then toss with the Brussels sprouts.  Spread the Brussels on a sheet pan and roast, tossing every 10 minutes or so for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are tender and golden brown.  (It’s good if the outer leaves of a few of the sprouts start to look almost too brown.)