Summer in Camden, Maine, is a time for parties. Old friends sail into the harbor or arrive on our doorstep. Every long sunny day is an excuse for celebration after the short quiet days of winter when every invitation depended on the track of the latest snowstorm. One thing that is sure to show up at every summer party are these thin cheese crackers, which are always the first to disappear. There can never be enough of them, so I just bake as many as I can and resign myself to running out. They are exceptionally thin, rectangular cheese crackers, rich with butter and cheese and topped with a sprinkling of salt.
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups (about 5 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) soft unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper or hot Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Stir the flour, cheddar cheese, and pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Put the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Mix in the Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper. Add the flour mixture and mix just to incorporate the flour. Increase the speed to medium and beat until a smooth dough forms that holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. You will see specks of cheese in the dough. Divide the dough in half and press each piece into a square about 3/4 inch thick. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Remove 1 piece of dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it. Flour the rolling surface and rolling pin lightly. Roll the dough into a rectangle that measures 12 x 5 inches and is 1/8 inch thick. Trim the edges. Use a large, sharp knife or fluted pastry wheel to cut 20 strips 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. Cut 20 strips by cutting 5 rows lengthwise and 4 rows crosswise. Slide a thin metal spatula under the dough to loosen it from the rolling surface. Separate each strip and roll it until it is 4 inches long and about 1/16 inch thick. Use the spatula to loosen the strips from the rolling surface and transfer the strips to the baking sheet, placing them 1 inch apart. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Sprinkle the strips lightly with the kosher salt. Each strip will have only a few grains of salt on it.
5. Bake 1 sheet at time until the edges of the cheese ribbons are light brown and the centers are just golden, about 6 minutes. The ribbons should not become brown all over. Bake the remaining baking sheet of cheese ribbons about 6 minutes. Cool the cheese ribbons 5 minutes on the baking sheets. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
To achieve a rich butter and cheese flavor, these crackers must be prepared with a full-fat cheddar cheese rather than a reduced-fat kind. The best way to make this thin cracker is to roll it twice. After I roll the dough into a square about 1/8 inch thick, I cut it into strips and roll each strip even thinner. These cheese crackers can have a straight edge if cut with a knife or a zigzag edge if cut with a fluted pastry wheel. Use coarse-grained kosher salt for the topping. Kosher salt can be found in the spice section of the supermarket.
Stack 6 cheese ribbons together and wrap them in plastic wrap. Put the wrapped cheese ribbons in a metal or plastic freezer container and cover tightly. Label with the date and contents. Freeze up to 3 months.
Defrost the wrapped cheese ribbons at room temperature. They can be stored in a clean metal tin at room temperature up to 5 days.
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Excerpted from 125 COOKIES TO BAKE, NIBBLE, AND SAVOR by Elinor Klivans Copyright© 1998 by Elinor Klivans. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.