Monday, August 29, 2011

Appetizers: Rosemary Honey Hazelnut Crackers

My local grocery stores used to carry crackers that were specifically flavored to go with certain types of cheeses. At this point the only one I can recall is that the celery-flavored crackers went with blue cheese. The amazing thing was, they really did complement the cheeses they were supposed to accompany. Often in the food world, you hear about things that are supposed to go together, and really, it's just a vile combination. The one that springs most readily to mind is chocolate and red wine. I'm not sure if this is the chocolate lobby, or the red wine growers association, or an evil alliance between the two, but it needs to stop because red wine with chocolate is just gross.

So like many good things in life these crackers seem to have vanished (and it's always the good things, with Exhibit A being Stouffer's vegetarian lasagna, and Exhibit B being Stouffer's broccoli in cheese sauce you could boil in the bag--clearly Stouffer's has let me down over the years, although in this case the crackers were not, to the best of my knowledge, made by Stouffer's). But something got me started thinking about those crackers, and I know crackers are a cinch to make, so why not make my own? And then I started thinking even more (your suspicions are confirmed--I admit I spend about 45 minutes out of any given hour thinking about food and food-related topics), and realized what fun I could have with cracker flavors. So I started with one that was inspired by another cracker I saw at the grocery store: rosemary raisin pecan. I swapped out the raisins and used honey for sweetness instead, and went with hazelnuts instead of pecans, because I like hazelnuts better than pecans.

I let my husband have one, and was accused of being "subtle." This rather surprised me, because I'm almost never accused of subtlety. He didn't think the flavors were super assertive, but that's the point. They're not supposed to clobber you over the head. And I think if you taste them carefully, you can in fact taste every flavor. However, if you want them stronger, add more rosemary, honey, and hazelnuts (keeping in mind that they're not intended to be a particularly sweet cracker in my execution, and if you add much more honey, you may need to add more flour--I haven't tested this).

On a technical note, it's best to try to cut all these crackers the same size, so they cook evenly. They may be a bit on the soft side when they come out of the oven, but they'll crisp up as they sit. And don't worry about appearances--they're intended to look rustic. Rustic, of course, is what we say when we mean "homemade and unprofessional." Rustic just sounds more deliberate.

Next I'm thinking of trying something like a Thai flavored cracker, with red curry paste, peanuts (or maybe peanut butter?) coconut milk and possibly curry or ginger or maybe even lemongrass. I also think if the basic dough were made with basil that they'd be an excellent thing to serve with tomato soup. I have a long list of things to try. I might even try to recreate the ones that went so well with blue cheese.

Rosemary Honey Hazelnut Crackers
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
2 tablespoons honey

  • In a food processor, combine flour, salt and rosemary, and pulse to combine
  • Add nuts and butter cut in 8 pieces and pulse 5-6 times
  • Add honey and pulse, then add water and pulse again
  • If dough is sticky, add 1-2 tablespoons of the additional 2 tablespoons of flour
  • Roll out 1/4" thick on a lightly floured board
  • Cut and bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned
Detailed Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In the workbowl of a food processor, combine 1 cup of flour, salt and the chopped rosemary. Pulse a couple of times to combine.

Cut the butter into 8 pieces and add it, along with the nuts, to the flour mixture. Pulse a few times to combine.

Add the honey, and then the water, and pulse a few more times to make a dough. Feel the dough, and if it feels quite sticky, add an additional tablespoon of flour, pulse, and check again. You may need the second tablespoon of flour as well. If so, add it and pulse a few times to combine.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or counter. Roll out with a rolling pin to 1/4" thickness. Using a knife or a cutter, cut to desired shape. I make little rectangles, but you could certainly stamp out circles or something decorative. You can't overwork this dough, so don't worry about that. You can reroll the scraps as often as you want.

Transfer the cut out dough to a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove to a rack and allow to cool slightly. You can serve them warm, or let them cool completely and put them in a tin to keep at room temperature. They keep well for several days, and if they're a bit soft when they're warm, they'll crisp up quite a bit over time.

Makes about 2 dozen crackers, depending on what shape you cut them.


Anonymous said...

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TD said...

Thanks--I hope you enjoy it!