The following 101, on how to make crackers, comes from Farm Aid's development director, Kari. Thanks so much, Kari, and please keep the mouth-watering ideas arriving hot and fresh from the oven!
My mission: homemade crackers for a holiday cocktail hour. (These would also make an easy edible gift.) Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for Parmesan thyme shortbread looked tasty and simple, but I’m not one to keep thyme on hand. So, I scoured my kitchen for decaying herbs and cheese remnants.
I found: Osage Gardens herbs from Colorado, Applegate cheddar and various other cheeses, butter from a local dairy, and King Arthur flour. That orchid to the left of the ingredients is somehow still alive after living with me for a month.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
» ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
» 4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan (or, if you're like me, a mix of cheeses totaling about 1 cup)
» 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (or thyme)
» ½ teaspoon salt
» ½ teaspoon pepper
» 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
1. I started off by grating the cheese in my food processor and letting the butter come to room temperature. While I waited on that, I cleaned out the refrigerator so that my in-laws will believe we keep our home cleaner than we actually do. Maybe I should write a 101 on How to be a Fake Clean Person.
2. Next I creamed the butter with a hand mixer instead of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, as Ina suggests.
3. Then I added in the cheese, rosemary, salt, pepper.
4. Because I don’t have a standing mixer, this next part required a buddy (see photo at right). I chose the taller one with thumbs. My husband poured in the flour a bit at time while I kept mixing so that the consistency formed large crumbles of dough. I had to add a bit of water to counteract the dryness of the dough. I also added a pinch more flour, as we’re at elevation.
5. Then I dumped the dough onto my floured surface and rolled it into a ball, gradually lengthening it into a loglike shape. I didn't quite get a log, but once I had it (roughly) formed, I wrapped it in plastic wrap to chill for a few hours.
6. I had the most success slicing with a paring knife. I sliced my crackers at about 3/8 inch each in thickness then baked them on parchment paper at 350F for 22 minutes. I’ll let them cool before storing them in an airtight container for two days.
I used my remaining rosemary for rosemary lavender cocktails, following a recipe from Serious Eats that begins with rosemary-infused gin.
BONUS: ROSEMARY LAVENDER COCKTAILS
To make the rosemary-infused gin: Lightly pound two stalks of clean rosemary with a muddler to release the oils, then place the stalks in a bottle of gin. Leave alone, sealed, until flavor is robust and the color begins to change—at least five hours and up to three days.
To make the cocktail:
» 2 ounces rosemary-infused gin
» 1/2 ounce lemon juice
» 1/2 ounce lavender syrup
» rosemary stalk for garnish
» club soda
Shake the gin, lemon juice, and lavender syrup with ice then strain into an ice-filled highball. Garnish with a rosemary stalk and top off with club soda. Cheers!
Got a question for Kari? Or another cracker recipe to share? Post a comment below and keep the conversation rolling! If you like the sound of Kari's cocktail, you might be interested in mixing up a lavender-infused bee's knees or in making your own coffee liqueur (think Kahluá). If you've got more rosemary to save from the garden, check out the Freezing, Drying, and Storing Herbs 101. And if you'd like some cheese with those crackers, give the Cheese Pressing (Hard Cheeses) 101 a gander. You can always find more things to cook, preserve, plant, grow, make, craft, and bake in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.
ALL PHOTOS: KARI WILLIAMS