No, there is not a typo in the title of this post. It shouldn't read "cheese and crackers" because this isn't a post about serving cheese with crackers, it's a post about serving cheese crackers -- homemade cheese crackers. Ready or not, like it or not, here it comes: the holiday entertaining season. If you're like me, you're always on the lookout for relatively simple, do-ahead appetizers and snacks to impress your guests. I'm here to tell you, making homemade, savory cheese snacks (cookies, crackers, sticks and wafers) is always a part of my holiday agenda -- just like baking cookies, they can be made 1-2 weeks in advance, and, they too make great hostess gifts!
Generally speaking, making homemade cheese snacks is an easy process, and, it is a fine way to use up fine cheese before it takes a turn for the worse. Recipes typically revolve around blending some grated cheese and a few ingredients together in a food processor, chilling the mixture, rolling or forming the snacks, then baking them. Depending upon whether the recipe calls for a hard, grating cheese, a firm sliceable cheese, or, a soft spreadable cheese, as long as the cheese you've got falls into the category the recipe calls for, you are home-free in terms of making a substitution. For instance: If a recipe calls for Brie, of course Camembert will work!
My pre-holiday cheese cracker baking and posting marathon got started with a question from a girlfriend from high school who lives in Wisconsin. A couple weeks ago, Marilyn asked for my suggestions for properly wrapping, storing and slicing cheese. Being the cheese addicted person that I am, I happily scampered off to my local Happy Valley cheesemonger, which, in the case of me, is like letting a kid roam free in a candy store. So:
In order to exercise restraint, I entered the store with a list in my hand and a strategy in my head -- I was to limit my selections to the cheeses on my list, and, I would subsequently use said cheeses to write blog posts sharing recipes for homemade cheese snacks, and share I did:
For white wine drinkers, ~ Savory and Peppery Triple-Creme Brie Shortbread ~ started the cheese ball rolling. Like baking shortbread for dessert, these buttery, rich, savory treats are best kept pure, unadulterated and simple, meaning: this is not a recipe to get creative with. Please don't be inclined to add herbs or spices to enhance their flavor, or, nuts or seeds for added texure. It's all about Brie and just a hint of pepper!
For those who enjoy a stiff cocktail or a refreshing pilsner of beer, ~ Mel's Spicy Horseradish Cheddar Cheese Sticks ~ are just what the cheese doctor ordered. But please, don't confuse these cheese sticks with cheese straws -- those twisted, super-crunchy puff pastry snacks (which are great too). These cheese sticks are crunchy on the outside with a bit of chew in the center, a whole lot more cheddar flavor, plus, a pleasant spicy warmth that lingers in your mouth and takes over the back of your throat with each sddictive bite!
For red wine and port drinkers, ~ Crunchy 'n Tangy Gorgonzola & Walnut Wafers ~ are the "piece de resistance", a French term implying the very best part of something, a masterpiece indicative of superior quality. It's thought of as the portion of a creation so unique that it "resists" common conventions and practices, thereby making it extremely special. Feel free to substitute your favorite, high-quality blue cheese, but, for me, Italy's Gorgonzola makes these my favorite blue cheese heaven!
While most homemade cheese "snacks" (cookies, crackers, sticks and wafers) need nothing more than a favorite cocktail or a fine wine to enjoy them, every once in a while one comes along that deserves a great cheese spread. My Gorgonzola wafers are one such snack and my ~ Crunchy 'n Creamy Gorgonzola & Walnut Spread ~, is out of this world mounded on top of them. You can find all of these recipes by clicking into Categories 1, 2, or 11.
'Tis the season, so, set the date and holiday cocktail party on!!!
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; rubber spatula; baking pans; parchment paper; metal spatula; cooling racks
Cook's Note: For another one of my favorite cheesy appetizers, which also pairs well with homemade cheese crackers, you can find my recipe ~ Confessions From a Port Wine Cheese Ball Lover ~ in Categories 1, 11, 20 & 26!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)