Try making homemade crackers

  • Article by: JOE GRAY , Chicago Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2011 - 2:37 PM

Crisp little wafers are easy to make and provide unbeatable flavor.

Homemade red chili and cheddar crackers can be fiery, addicting little bites.

Photo: Bill Hogan, MCT

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The crunch of a cracker is a happy thing, whether it lifts up a gooey blue cheese, floats atop tomato soup or is eaten right out of the box.

With the endless varieties competing on store shelves, from your favorite well-known brands to small-batch artisan flatbreads, there's no need to consider making crackers yourself, right? Except that when you serve up a batch of crisp crackers you've made, the reward will be in your guests' faces and in watching them disappear.

Chef Chester Hastings, author of "The Cheesemonger's Kitchen," compares the satisfaction of cracker making to that of its flour-based cousin.

"It's like bread -- why make bread at home?" Hastings said. "There's something about making it at home, and controlling the flavor and texture and saltiness of things, that is so rewarding.

"It's also about the smell of baked things in the oven," he says.

Crackers are much easier to make than bread; if you bake cookies, you can make crackers.

Hastings includes three cracker recipes in his book, all tempting, but we fell in love with red chili and cheddar diamonds -- fiery, addicting little bites.

"The cheddar diamond thing came about from a bar snack perspective," Hastings said. "When I started playing with it, I couldn't stop making them. Good-quality cheddar when it cooks is mesmerizing."

And that's a key tip in making crackers. Because the ingredients are so few and the technique simple, you'll want to use the best quality.

A cracker of a different strip, a seed-studded flatbread from Alton Brown of "Good Eats," provides a nutty flavor that will stand on its own or cozy up to cheeses or soups or dips.

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