It’s always a wonder to me that more home bakers don’t make their own crackers. As long as you stick to a few basics and keep an eagle eye on them while they’re baking, crackers are surprisingly easy to make. This recipe yields crunchy cheddar cheese crackers that are sure to be a hit at your next games night or holiday party. But be forewarned: they’re so tasty they might never make it out of your kitchen!
Homebaked Cheese Crackers
Makes 8 dozen or more crackers
2 cups of bread flour (best) or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
3 Tablespoons canola oil
3 Tablespoons shortening (I use Spectrum non-hydrogenated)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
½ cup cold water
Extra flour for bench work
Salt for topping
2 or 3 heavy cookie sheets, 11” x 17”
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Using the flat beater on low speed, mix in the oil and shortening until there are no pieces larger than the size of a pea, about 1 minute. Add the shredded cheese and beat for about 2 minutes, until the cheese is broken down into small bits. Now add the water and beat for about 30 seconds, until all the dough sticks in a mass on the beater.
Knead and let rest: On a clean unfloured surface, knead the dough vigorously for 5 minutes, by which time all of the cheese will be incorporated into the dough (a few flecks here and there are okay). The dough should be smooth and pliable.
Put the dough on a counter, cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 30 minutes before continuing.
Set a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 425°.
Roll out and pan the dough: Cut dough into three equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece into a rough rectangle 10” x 15”. To achieve this, you may have to roll the dough, let it rest and roll again. You want a sheet of dough that is about 1/16” thick. Some irregularity is inevitable; don’t worry about it. Use a small amount of flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
Gently pick the finished rectangle of dough off of the counter and spread it onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Cut and prick: Using a pizza cutter or pasta roller, cut the sheet of dough into 1½” squares. The uneven edges of the dough can either be made into crazy shapes or cut off to be used in the dough the next time. Your choice.
Make holes in the dough with a serving fork as shown in the photo. This will keep the centers from puffing up.
Sprinkle cut crackers lightly with salt before baking.
Bake, turn and cool: (Be sure to see Baking Notes below) Bake crackers at 425° for 5 minutes, turn over and bake for a further 3 minutes. If some of your thinner crackers are cooked sooner, pull them out before they overcook. Otherwise, remove to a rack when the crackers are light brown and let cool for 10 minutes or more.
Repeat last three steps with each piece of dough.
Serve these tasty crackers with hummus, cream cheese or your favorite dip and then watch them disappear!
Baking Notes: Crackers are so darned thin that baking them magnifies the differences between individual ovens. This is where it’s essential that you know your oven. For example, my gas oven cooks hotter around the outside, so when I turn them I rotate the outer crackers to the middle.
Please use the times above as a guideline. Even a minute too long can overcook these crackers. If you err on the undercooked side, put cooled crackers in a single layer on a cooling rack and return to a 300° oven for 10 minutes.