Pretty cheesy!

cheese crackers

I love cheese crackers. LOVE LOVE LOVE cheese crackers. Cheez-Its, Cheese Nips, even Cheetos fall into that same delightful category of cheesy CRUNCH.

I love how the powdery cheese residue sticks to your fingers, so that of course you have to lick it off. I love that sharp/tangy/nutty taste that simply shouts CHEESE.

So, with all the yummy crunchy cheese snacks already on the market, why would I ever want to make my own?

Because I can. And for bakers, that’s reason enough.

I mean, why make your own bagels when you can get perfectly serviceable bagels—even great ones, in certain parts of the country—at your local store or deli? Why bother to make Faux-Reos, when “the real thing” is right there on your supermarket shelf?

C’mon, you know why. Because if you’re reading this, baking is an avocation, not something you’re forced into to avoid starvation. Oh, sure, providing your family with fresh-baked, oven-warm treats is a great side benefit of this passion you possess.

But truly, for us bakers it’s all about the journey, as much as the destination. We simply like to take an idea, visualize a tasty endpoint, and use our hands, heads (and hearts) to get there.

Shaping a bouncy round of dough into a boule, smoothing a log of biscotti dough, placing pepperoni on a pizza, the simple symmetry of crimping a pie crust… It’s just plain fun.

And that’s why I sometimes choose to make my own cheese crackers, rather than pick up a box of white cheddar Cheez-Its, tasty though they are.

These crackers involve a bit of fussing: rolling out dough, cutting it into squares, pricking with a fork. But the feeling when you pull them out of the oven is well worth it; and their taste is a reward unto itself.

Want to read the recipe before you follow along with these illustrated steps? Click here to see it online: Vermont Cheese Crackers.

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Making crackers is exactly like making pie crust. You’re simply adding leavening: in this case, both yeast and baking powder. Or baker’s ammonia; this is a good place to try this old-fashioned precursor to baking powder, especially if you have some left over from your Christmas cookies.

Anyway, stir together the dry ingredients. If you’re using baker’s ammonia, save it out; you’ll dissolve it in water a bit further along.

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Add shortening…

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…and mix till everything is unevenly crumbly.

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If you’re using baker’s ammonia, dissolve it in 1 tablespoon of the ice water called for in the recipe, and sprinkle it over the dry ingredients in the bowl. Either way, baker’s ammonia or baking powder, drizzle in enough ice water, tossing and stirring, to make a cohesive dough.

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Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a rectangular slab (pictured on the right); this cuts back a bit on raggedy edges as you roll. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. Don’t stretch the refrigeration time too much; the chemical leavening will gradually lose its punch.

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Lightly flour a piece of parchment, then roll your rolling pin over the parchment to coat the pin with flour.

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Remove one piece of dough from the fridge. Very lightly flour the top of the dough, and place it on the parchment. If you’re not using reusable parchment… why not? It’s one of the best investments you can make, for everything from keeping your cookie sheets clean, to ensuring that cakes come out of the pan in one piece, to baking crisp/crunchy artisan bread on a stone. But if you’re not using parchment (and you’ll see in a minute why it’s particularly useful for these crackers), flour your work surface, or a silicone rolling mat.

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Roll the dough into a 1/16” to 1/8”-thick sheet, occasionally loosening it from the parchment with a giant spatula as you go. Thinner is better, but don’t stress over this; I usually roll the dough to about 3/32”, truth be told, and I find that that thickness produces a really nice cracker. Thicker than 1/8”, your crackers will tend to be soft, not crisp.

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See? The raggedy edges aren’t TOO bad.

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Cut the dough into 1 1/4” squares; a rolling pizza wheel works very well here. Note: If you’re NOT working on parchment, DON’T cut the dough—yet.

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Here it is, cut in nice, even squares.

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Prick each square with a fork; this is both for looks, and to keep the crackers from blowing up into little pillows as they bake.

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You can see the crackers taking shape, can’t you?

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Here’s where the parchment comes in SO handy: grab the edge, and gently slide it onto a baking sheet.

Now, if you haven’t used parchment, carefully transfer the dough to a very lightly greased baking sheet. Unless you have a giant spatula, you’ll probably need to fold it in quarters, or at least in half, to move it. Once it’s on the baking sheet, cut and prick it as shown in the previous photos. It’s more awkward to cut once the dough is on the pan… but that’s one of the prices you pay for not using parchment!

Understand that you’re working with just one piece of dough at this point; I find it easiest to bake just one sheet of crackers at a time. While the first sheet is baking, you can start to roll, cut, and prick the next batch.

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Bake the crackers till the ones around the edge are starting to brown; this will take about 7 to 9 minutes, depending on whether you’ve used parchment (which provides a slightly slower, more gentle and even bake). Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the browned crackers to a cooling rack (or another piece of parchment); they’re done.

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Quickly and gently separate the remaining crackers. Give the pan a couple of firm shakes first; they’ll pull apart easily. Especially if you’ve used parchment. Hey, I’m not making this stuff up just to goad you into buying something—I’ve tested this both ways, and parchment definitely makes the entire process easier.

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Continue baking until the crackers are very lightly browned around the edges…

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…like this.

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I’ve found these crackers are especially yummy with a  bowl of homemade soup; any “cream of” soups are particularly good. I’m especially fond of our Creamy Tomato Soup, which my mom says makes canned tomato soup a poor second choice in comparison. And she’s not just saying that because she’s my mom—honest!

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Finally, for “finger-lickin’ good” crackers, shake in a bag with some extra cheese powder.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Vermont Cheese Crackers.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Sunshine Cheez-It Crackers, 33¢/ounce

Ingredients: Enriched Flour, Soybean and Palm Oil with TBHQ for Freshness, Skim Milk Cheese, Salt, Contains Two Percent or Less of Paprika, Yeast, Paprika Oleoresin for Color, Soy Lecithin.

Bake at home: Vermont Cheese Crackers, 24¢/ounce

Ingredients: King Arthur Flour, Vermont cheddar cheese, yeast, salt, baking powder, vegetable shortening.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Julie

    These look excellent! I’ve been wanting to make my own crackers and this might be the recipe I try, although I’m a little scared off by the shortening. Is there another option I can use?

    Julie, I’m wondering why you’re scared by trans-fat free shortening… 1/4 cup shortening to make 100 crackers = 1/10 teaspoon shortening per cracker. If that bothers you, then use butter, but the crackers will be soft, not crisp. Or try vegetable oil – not sure how much, and not sure if it’ll work. I can understand deciding NOT to use shortening, just on principle, but I’m wondering about the “scared” part, considering all of the other things we eat and wear and walk on and inhale and experience each day, in this world of ours… Poor old shortening, bakers have been using it for years, and it DOES do wonderful things for texture. So, sorry I went off on that tangent! Substitute any fat you like for shortening; you just won’t get the same crisp result (though just as tasty). Good luck, hope you try them – PJH

    Reply
    1. Clip2Cook

      Julie, I dislike shortening too.
      One option is to use baking lard instead Crisco.

      You find lard in any supermarkets in US, usualy with the Mexican products, it is called Manteca.

      PJH, thank you for the recipe, I will try it for this holiday season.

  2. Sue

    These sound great! I wish I had known about this recipe before I made a different recipe on New Year’s Eve. The recipe I made didn’t call for any leaveners. They turned out great and everyone loved them, but I would have loved to use up some of my baker’s ammonia.

    Well, it’s a long winter… you’ll get to them sometime, I’m sure. PJH

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  3. Barbara

    Another must-bake for me! I’m thinking these would also be good shaken with a bit of sour-cream-and-onion powder after baking.

    No doubt they would, Barbara – good idea! – PJH

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  4. Mike T.

    Hmmm, if I don’t cut them an they puff up, they’d be kinda like oyster crackers, and since it is winter, that would be perfect for a big bowl of chili…… ;^)

    Yup, they’d puff up a bit – not like oyster crackers, though. And they’d be less crisp, as the hot air trapped inside softens them. Caveat emptor- PJH

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  5. SoupAddict Karen

    What great timing! I made crackers for the first time only a couple of weeks ago, but wasn’t too crazy about the recipe I used. Now this is what I’m talkin’ ’bout! And, oh, about those raggedy edges … since they can’t be served, I suppose they just must be eaten by the baker. Tragic. (Much like when the baristas-in-training at the coffee shop overfill my cafe mocha with too much whipped cream, and I must slurp it off before the lid will fit.)

    Indeed – I practically burn my fingers eating all those “raggedy scraps” every time I make these, Karen. And as for that coffee – oo-la-la, whipped cream sounds like a treat. I used to love whipped cream in my hot chocolate as a kid… too bad you can’t whip fat-free half and half into cream! – PJH

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  6. Bridgett

    I must admit that this post made me laugh. I love the remark about people wondering why in the world a person would make his/her own crackers (“Because I can. And for bakers, that’s reason enough”). The comment that really made me chuckle was “providing your family with fresh-baked, oven-warm treats is a great side benefit of this passion you possess”. I LOVE IT!
    Thanks for the great recipes and tips (and humor).

    You’re very welcome, Bridgett – I can tell you’re a fellow baking “apprecianado.” – PJH

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  7. plevee

    Can these be made with cheese rather than “cheese powder”?

    Hi – read the tip on the right-hand side of the recipe online for info. about this. You can make them with cheese, but they won’t be crisp, they’ll be soft. I haven’t tried it so you’d have to guess at the amount. I’d suggest you simply google a recipe for cheese straws or cheese pennies if you want to use fresh cheese, and go with that. Good luck – PJH

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  8. Bridget

    Great idea! I love those cheese crackers, too, but reading the ingredient list on the side is a little scary. My son would love some cheese crackers again! :)

    Reply
  9. todd

    Can you roll these out with a pasta roller?

    Give it a try, Todd – I’ve tried to roll cracker dough before and usually it’s too tender and falls apart, but it doesn’t hurt to try… PJH

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  10. Angelina

    Hi PJ, I’ve made the cheese crackers in the KAF Baker’s Companion. They were way better than store bought. I’ve also tried the soda crackers, english digestive & rich crackers in KAF website. For some reason, my comments were removed. Anyway, I always substitute shortening for butter and the baked goods turn out well. I have always wanted to try this recipe and now that you’ve done it, I will definitely put it on my next to do list. Thanks, PJ.

    Sorry your comments disappeared, Angelina – where were they, on one of the recipes on the Web site? If you now which, I can try to go in and see what happened… Anyway, have fun with the cheese crackers! – PJH

    Reply
  11. Bethany

    When I was first married, I tried my hand at crackers. They were pretty good, if I remember. But a very tactless friend came visiting that evening and–through mouthfuls of pilfered crackers–asked if I had intended to make them this flat and hadn’t I really been trying for bread. I laughed even then, but now after all these years of baking bread and never once having it remotely resemble crackers, I think I should give them another try. Those poor misunderstood snacks:-)

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  12. Joanne

    I have never thought of making your own crackers! My favorite crackers were Nabisco’s Royal Lunch Milk Crackers, which the company stopped making a year or two ago. Now, if someone at KAF could come up with a cracker recipe similar to those, I would be a happy girl!

    That was my husband’s favorite, too! He still mourns their passing… I’ll have to see what I can do, Joanne – PJH

    Reply
  13. Angelina

    Hi PJ, yes, I sent the comments to the recipes on the website. It’s not a big deal that they disappeared. I made the crackers this morning. The dough was very easy to roll. Mine were a little darker than yours and they’re still tasty. However, the cheese crackers in the KAF Baker’s Companion have a richer cheese flavor and flakier texture. Try that one out when you have time. The soda crackers and the sesame flatbread II on the website are excellent too. I make them all the time for snacks :). I don’t buy crackers anymore, thanks to KAF!

    Good for you, Angelina – cruising down the cracker aisle at the supermarket can get pretty expensive! It’s only natural the cheese crackers in the BC are more richly flavored and flaky – they’re made from fresh cheese and lots of butter. And I’ve tried them lots— I wrote “The Baker’s Companion,” so in the process I got to try all the recipes. And try them again, and again… :) This is a more austere (but also much more calorie-friendly) cracker. It’s good to have choices, right? PJH

    Reply
  14. Marion

    You guys are always up to something interesting! All through the holidays I would check my RSS feed and lo and behold, another post! Yeah! I don’t know whether any of you took any time off, or you just baked your way through Christmas but all I can say is thanks for the best blog ever!

    You’re welcome – I’d say yes, we baked our way through Christmas – but what a nice way to celebrate! Happy New Year- PJH

    Reply
  15. Melinda

    What else could you season these with…dairy allergy and all keeps me from cheese. Garlic powder? Rosemary? Seasoned salt of some sort?

    Sure, whatever you like. Without the cheese in there, you’ll probably need to add a bit more flour to make the dough roll-able. We have some good cracker recipes in The Baker’s Companion; see if your library has it (though I totally recommend making it a part of your baking library… it’s a pretty awesome book, if I do say so myself!) PJH

    Reply
  16. Deb

    I thought I would mention that in the KAF Whole Grain Baking cookbook there is a similar recipe for Cheese Crackers. It uses butter instead of shortening. There are few other differences in ingredients as well, but I thought Julie might find the whole grain recipe more to her liking. Plus in the book there are several kinds of cracker recipes. My 16 month old son loves the Wheat Thins. And I love my giant book of whole grain recipes.

    Thanks, Deb – it was quite a project doing that book, and VERY interesting. Glad your son is a cracker aficionado at such a young age! You’re a good mom to make them at home for him… PJH

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  17. Just a Flipflop Mom

    I can’t WAIT to make these… We have a local restaurant ( Sophie and Zeke’s) and they make the BEST chowders/soups… I want to grab a bowl from them and compliment it with these!! YUM.. I just made your Golden Focaccia.. ( and blogged about it).. this weekend… it WAS good!!!

    Hey, nice blog! Sorry it was a rather difficult recipe to follow; yeah, your loaf did look REALLY dry and crusty after rising. Did you cover it with plastic wrap, or…? But the end result looked just fine – congrats. And thanks for your kind words. PJH

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  18. Catherine

    PJ my friends and I have a response when people ask us why would we put so much time into…. (insert whatever here)…. when you could easily buy it. We just respond that it’s cheaper than therapy! Love your blog!

    Now, I’ll have to remember that, Catherine… Plus, if you look at the “bake vs. buy,” the price is usually right to bake at home, too. Cheaper than store-bought, cheaper than therapy, and tastier than both. PJH

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  19. Lisa

    Wow! This made my week — I just got a restored Chambers Stove installed and LOVE baking in that puppy — I can’t wait to try these. And another bonus — my local commissary stocks KAF!!!! They just started stocking it and I was so excited to see it, I was extolling its virtues to another poor lady who was there shopping. (my husband is retired USMC, so I get to shop at a commissary) — before I had to order it in 25 lb. bags from you guys, now I can get it all local-like! Must be my week!

    Little things mean a lot, don’t they, Lisa? :) Enjoy- PJH

    Reply
  20. Nel

    OK, for the past week or so, I’ve been thinking, ‘Got to check the KA site and see if they have any recipes for crackers.’ I made crackers a few years ago from recipes I found on the net, and the results were as various as the websites I got them from – and usually disappointing. I recently found baker’s ammonia again in a supermarket (NONE before Christmas; stocked after Christmas – what gives?), and since I now have no cookies I want to bake with it, I’ve been thinking of crackers.

    And here you are with inspiration and good tips (like maybe it was the BUTTER that made those crackers soft, and not because I rolled them too thick?)

    I can’t wait to try some of your cracker recipes now!

    Thanks!

    Our pleasure, Nel – Enjoy. PJH

    Reply
  21. JEAN

    I agree that fresh vs store bought is so much better; and control of ingredients is a real plus, but the best part of baking, I believe, is the aroma (which you dont get when opening the box of crackers) that permeates every part of our home and has everyone excited to see/taste whatever is coming out of the oven.

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  22. Ellen

    I just did these today and while they were tasty, they came out a little flat. I just wonder how the yeast can work in these when it is kept cool until it is baked?The yeast does work a bit in cool temperatures, but you’re right, it doesn’t do a whole lot in this recipe. it is there more for the flavor and texture the slight fermentation gives. MT@KAF

    Reply
  23. Shelley Emmel

    I just purchased the Bakers Ammonia. When using it in cookie recipes that call for Baking Powder and/or Baking Soda, how do I substitute them for using the baking ammonia ?
    Thanks – Shelley

    Shelley, I’ve never worked this out – that’s why I say in the product copy to “use it in recipes that call for it.” I’m theorizing here, but I’d substitute it by using about half the amount of baker’s ammonia as BP – e.g., if the recipe calls for 1 1/2 tsp. BP, use 3/4 tsp. baker’s ammonia. Hope it works – PJH

    Reply
  24. jfseidel

    Oh, King Arthur Flour, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

    I used real Parmesan and Asiago cheese, instead of the cheese powder (problem 1), on a rainy, humid day (possible problem 2 for crispy things), old Crisco – thought that had a shelf life of plutonium – (problem 3), at a slightly lower temp than recommended – have some of your Blitz Bread baking – (problem 4) and they still turned out well!! I’ll have to try again under improved circumstances and see what the differences are. I try to make the first attempt as close to the recipe as possible, and one of the reasons I tried this recipe is that I got some of the Italian Style Flour for Christmas, and hadn’t tried it yet.

    Reply
  25. magroves

    These crackers look so yummy! I read all of the comments and it is tempting me to try it but making is Gluten free!
    Could these crackers possibly be made with Gluten Free Flour and then adding all of hte necessary things to make Gluten Free breads and cakes?
    It would be a great treat for me if it is possible to adapt the recipe for my dietary needs.
    Mary Ann , Knoxville, TN
    Hi Mary Ann,
    We have tried these as GF, but crackers usually translate pretty well. Referring to another GF cracker recipe to for proportions etc. can be very helpful in your tests too. Let us know how it goes. ~ MaryJane

    Reply

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