I hate to make my last post of the year negative, so let’s do a tiny bit of cooking.
Cheese wafers. These are what Cheese Nips (registered trade name) aspire to be. Once you’ve made them you’ll probably never want commercial cheese crackers again.
Instead of starting with a recipe, I’m going to discuss the whole. See, these are OLD and used to be a regular in cookbooks. Southerners will say they’re an old southern tradition, but I’ve seen them in collections from around the nation.
The concept is easy. I’ve mentioned making straight melted cheese rounds before, but while I think they’re delicious others don’t like the greasiness from the rendered oils or the browned cheese flavor. But people still like crisp cheese. Thus we’ve got these.
Basically you will take some cheese and mix it with a bit of flour. You’ll use butter, usually, to help this form a dough that holds together. For personal taste, then, you can add spices and/or nuts.
Now if you go looking, the majority of the time what you find is cheddar. I’m going to point out there are a lot more cheeses out there. Gorgonzola and other bleu type cheeses are delicious, for example. It’s been my experience that mild cheeses don’t work as well. They seem to have difficulty overcoming the flour, much less any additional options you throw in. Don’t let that stop you from making one with neufchatel, however, if that’s the way you want to try.
The “normal” proportions start with a half-pound of cheese. Then you see between one and two cups of flour and half to a whole cup of butter. I’ll point out the obvious that the less fat content your cheese has the more butter you might need for the finished product.
Grate (or crumble) the cheese (if necessary), and cream it with the butter. Add any extras such as nuts, or a bit of cayenne to your cheddar/butter, or a bit of salt, all as your taste prefers. Now add the flour and work it a bit till it forms a fairly smooth dough ball.
Enter now what I consider one of the greatest tricks of this: you don’t have to bake it now. In fact MOST recipes you find will tell to make a log, roll it in wax paper, and put it in the refrigerator overnight to get firm. The neatest thing to me, however, is that you can freeze this. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Chill it so it’s firm. If you just chilled it in the mixing bowl you can roll small balls (roughly an inch or so) put them on a cookie sheet, and press them flat with the bottom of a glass or some such. If you made a log you cut thin (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick) slices. The dough won’t spread much during baking – all the loft is from steam. You’re going to bake in a medium (300-350 degree) oven for 10 to 15 minutes or till they’re somewhat crisp. They aren’t going to brown much if at all, so don’t use that as a test. After they come out they’ll crisp up a bit more as they cool.
Back to the freezer comment. Any recipe will make dozens of these, and they’re good enough almost everyone I know can EAT dozens. But with a frozen log I can pull it out, cut off a couple of inches, re-wrap the remainder, and cut that couple of inches into 8 to 16 (call it a dozen) wafers. It’s actually easier to cut them thin while frozen, but let them set on the counter after cutting for a few minutes before baking – it’s easier to get them done right. My personal timing is to pull, cut, and then start the oven preheating.
For the inevitable “one more thing”, my special treat is to make a sandwich ‘cookie’ out of these. Spread an apple compote between two cheddars. Fig compote is amazing between a pair of gorgonzolas. But, well, try your own. That’s the basic lesson I’m pushing here. It’s a hard recipe to ruin and an easy one to find your own taste while using.