And while I'm not the biggest fan of serving crackers with cheese, somehow that all changes when the crackers are homemade. (And seriously addictive.)
I guess I've just never really been an advocate for cheese with crackers. Most crackers are dull, unexciting, and of no particular note: exactly what you don't want, especially with a great cheese.
Good crackers are so expensive, too. Texturally, I find them too.... cracker-y. I've always said to pair cheese with plain baguette, if anything, in order to let the cheese shine.
These crackers are in a different class. They're tender, flakey, and buttery, nearly pastry-like. And no wonder. They're made almost like pie dough, by cutting butter and grated gruyere cheese into flour, and then mixing in a bit of cream and an egg. The dough comes together in under five minutes, and you can make it and then store for later use in the freezer. They're slice n' bake, so you can have them freshly baked on a whim.
Finished with a bit of crunchy Maldon salt, they bake up with an incredibly cheesy flavor, and go as well with a fresh goat cheese as they do with a glass of white. If you don't have gruyere, you can just as easily use a sharp cheddar, manchego, or any other kind of swiss-style cheese.
I can't take all the credit, though. This recipe was developed by my brilliant co-worker named Nikki, whom I thank for getting me on the cracker bandwagon. It's a pretty sweet ride.
Gruyere and Hazelnut Crackers
Makes about 80 crackers
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese, grated with the small holes of a box grater
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Maldon salt, for sprinkling
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse flours, salt, and pepper. Add butter and gruyere cheese; pulse until fully blended. Add egg and cream and blend for about 20 seconds, until ingredients are fully mixed and evenly moist.
Divide dough in two. Using plastic wrap to assist you, form each half into a compact square log, about 5 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place logs in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until thoroughly chilled. You can leave logs in freezer for up to two months. Thaw slightly before slicing. If dough breaks when sliced, it's too cold.
Using a sharp knife and even, downward pressure, slice dough into squares, about 1/8 inch thick. Turn the log one quarter after each cut to keep its shape. Place squares on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each square with water and sprinkle with maldon salt.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes, until crisp and golden around the edges. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with cheese and white wine.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Image: Nora Singley)