November 28, 2012 by Meg G.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of great cooking, community, and conversation! I managed to take just one photo from the celebration – highlighting my aunt’s beautiful tablescape and my cookies.
We had a lovely day, full of laughter to the point of tears. Thank God for family!
Eager to get back in my own kitchen, I had big plans for yesterday’s culinary experiments: roasted carrot soup from Food52 (coming soon) and cheddar crackers from Alana Chernilla’s Homemade Pantry. I thought to myself, “One day, these little guys might replace my unhealthy addiction to Cheezits.” (A girl can dream, right?)
But for real, I have jumped on the homemade bandwagon in a serious way. Alana’s book and the From Scratch Club’s cook-along is kind of blowing my mind. Three months ago, I never could have imagined that I could make so many pantry staples from scratch. I’ve already made ricotta, “instant” oatmeal, veggie broth, lasagna noodles, apple sauce, peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Many of those recipes were quite simple, requiring simple ingredients. Some take more time than others, but all of them have been really worth it, even the ones that haven’t gone perfectly. Enter the cheese crackers…
Here’s what happened. This was a classic case of doing too much at once and not reading properly. It’s amazing how quickly things will go downhill when you misread the oven temperature…sigh. Alright, enough chatter, here’s the recipe.
- 3 Tbs unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch thick cubes, plus additional for baking sheets
- 1.5 cups (7.5 oz) all-purpose flour, plus additional for the counter
- 1 tsp dry mustard powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1.5 cups (6 oz) grated Cheddar cheese
- 2 tsp distilled white vinegar
- 1 ice cube
Combine butter, flour, dry mustard, and salt in the bowl of your standing mixer. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until crumbly and butter begins to integrate, about 30 seconds. Add the cheese and mix again on low speed for a few seconds.
In liquid measuring cup, combine 3/4 cup water, the vinegar, and ice cube and let it sit for a moment to get cold. Add 6 tablespoons of the liquid to the dough and mix on medium speed for 20 seconds. Continue adding liquid, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough clings to the beater. (I think I wound up adding another 4 tablespoons.) Then mix for an additional 30 seconds. Mound the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator 15 minutes before you are ready to roll it out. Preheat the oven to *325F* and grease two baking sheets. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, press into a flat disc, and roll with rolling pin until the dough is 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Use a pizza wheel to cut the crackers into 2-inch squares (or a small biscuit cutter for round crackers).
Transfer crackers to the greased cookie sheets, allowing 1 inch between crackers. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through the baking, or until the crackers are slightly golden. Turn off the oven, but leave the trays in the oven as it cools for at least 1 hour.
So, it turns out, that when you try to cook dinner and make crackers at the same time, you might accidentally read 325 as 375 and burn the heck out of your lovely cheese crackers.
Of course we salvaged as many of the crackers as we could – chiseling off the burnt pieces as we went along. And despite being burnt to a crisp, the salvageable pieces were still QUITE delicious. Like, I’m thinking about popping one in my mouth right now, at 10:22am.
In a previous life, I may have thrown a fit and cried over burnt crackers and my own responsibility for their destruction. But, I’ve come to realize that failure is a crucial part of experimenting in the kitchen. As Alana put it in the FSC’s most recent podcast, people are often paralyzed by the fear of doing something wrong, ruining a meal, or embarrassing themselves in front of company. So, lots of people just don’t try, because it’s easier not to take that risk. But where’s the fun in that?!
Your kitchen failures may just turn into something even more delicious next time around, might remind you to read more carefully or slow down a bit, and will certainly make for a good story over the dinner table (perhaps a few days or years later). In any case, our failures help to remind us that we’re not here to be perfect. Or, better yet, perhaps they encourage us to re-imagine our definitions of perfection and failure…
Care to share your own kitchen failures – or shall we call them adventures?