Crunchy Parmesan Crackers: chee-easy

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It’s with semi-trepidation that I approach any recipe whose result is both flat, and shaped.

Oh sure, I can make chocolate chip cookies; they’re kinda flat, right?

But that’s not what I’m talking about. The recipes that really make me think twice call for a particular tool that’s been the bane of my baking existence for what feels like 100 years.

The rolling pin.

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Pity the poor rolling pin, object of such fear and loathing!

How many of you are just the tiniest bit hesitant about rolling pie crust? C’mon, you can admit it; we’re all friends here. As I indicated above, I’m not a happy camper when it comes to taking a disk o’ dough and turning it into a perfectly flat, perfectly even 12″ circle.

I’ve learned a lot of tricks over the years, it’s true; but there are so many potential pitfalls along the pie-way – sticky dough, dry dough, ragged edges, falling apart – it’s hard to nail each and every one perfectly, each and every time I make a pie.

Or cutout cookies. Or crackers.

Thus, when handed the winning recipe from EatingWell magazine’s Whole Grains Makeover contest – sponsored in part by King Arthur Flour and the Whole Grains Council – and asked to add it to our recipe site, I was chagrined.

Whole grain crackers? The winner couldn’t be bread or brownies or muffins or something easy, right? Had to be something requiring – gulp – a rolling pin.

So, was I ever pleasantly and totally surprised when this particular dough – made with 100% whole wheat flour – rolled out like a dream (rather than a nightmare).

Yes, there were some ragged edges to deal with (entirely my fault); but the dough itself was smooth, supple, easy to handle, and just downright cooperative.

OK, I had some other issues with these crackers (again, all my own doing, as you’ll see). But next time I make them (and there WILL be a next time – they’re super-tasty), I’ve already worked through all the kinks.

Which is why we call it the TEST kitchen. We make the mistakes, so you don’t have to!

Let’s start with one of the key ingredients in these crackers: cheese.

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Freshly grated Parmesan is just SO worth it, compared to the “shake cheese” in a cardboard canister you’ll find in your supermarket’s pasta aisle.

And yes, you can spend upwards of $20/lb. for “real” Parmesan. But you can also find much less expensive wedges in the store’s dairy case, or the specialty cheese area usually found adjacent to the deli.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Get out several large baking sheets; no need to grease them.

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Whisk together the following:

2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few grinds fresh black pepper, optional
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

Add 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, working it in until no large pieces remain; a mixer works well here.

With the mixer running (or stirring all the while), drizzle in 1/2 cup whole, 2%, or 1% milk until the dough comes together; you may not need the entire 1/2 cup.

Gather the dough into a ball, and squeeze it a few times to bring it together.

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Divide the dough into three pieces. If you have a scale, they’ll weigh about 6 1/2 ounces (187g) each.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, flatten it into a rough square, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough 1/8″ thick; it’ll be about 10″ square (or an 11″ circle, if your rolling efforts result in a circle).

Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment or aluminum foil. Using a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or pastry wheel, cut the dough into 1″ squares; don’t separate them. You may trim the edges first, if you like, in order to separate the “good looking” crackers from the raggedy ones around the edges.

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Lift the piece of parchment/crackers onto a baking sheet.

Sprinkle the crackers with coarse sea salt, additional grated cheese, and/or dried herbs, if desired.

Edit. note: The original recipe calls for sprinkling with coarse sea salt. But after tasting the crackers, we’ve made the salt an optional ingredient here; we feel the crackers are salty enough without adding more on top.

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Bake the crackers for about 15 minutes, until they’re a medium golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the pan.

As you can see, I did some experimenting with the first batch; the original recipe called for a baking time of 10 to 15 minutes. I found 15 to 16 minutes, at least in my oven, was more like it. You want to bake them until they’re crisp all the way through, without being overly browned. It’s worth it to bake and cool one pan’s worth of crackers first, to check for doneness, before baking the remainder.

So, on to the next piece of dough. Remember, there are two more – which is good, since I need the rolling and cutting practice.

What should I do differently to avoid the continent-like shape of my first rolling job?

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How about shaping the dough into a flattened square before rolling?

Well, that worked OK; the result was still basically circular, but at least I avoided the ragged edges.

Still, I made a silly mistake; can anyone spot what I did?

D’OH. Rolled the dough on the silicone mat, but then cut the crackers right on the mat, rather than transferring to a piece of parchment first.

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Not a huge boo-boo; transferring all those little squares to the parchment/pan was a bit tricky, but a giant spatula helped.

It wasn’t completely smooth sailing yet, though.

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Many of the crackers puffed up into little pillows rather than lying flat. Still tasty; just a bit misshapen.

OK, I know the solution for that, too.

One more piece of dough – let’s see if I can get it all right THIS time.

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Fairly straight edges; transferred to parchment before cutting; pricked each square with a fork, to prevent “pillowing.”

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Not bad!

One more hint: the crackers around the edge bake faster than those in the center. This is kind of finicky but, if you like, remove the brown crackers around the edge, and put the pan back in the oven to finish baking the ones in the center.

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Pretty nice browning; nice shape; great flavor, and light, crunchy texture.

Some of these had a sprinkle of Parmesan added on top before baking; I really don’t think it’s necessary.

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They’re wonderfully cheese-y (as opposed to cheesy) even without the extra Parm.

Want to hone your rolling-pin skills, in anticipation of apple pie season? This recipe is a tasty place to start.

Please bake, rate, and review this recipe for Crunchy Parmesan Crackers, courtesy of EatingWell magazine and recipe author Pam Correll of Brockport, PA.

Print just the recipe.

 

 

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. gaa

    These look fabulous and easy even if the rolling pin is used. ( I admit that I too am rolling pin challenged!). I have one question for you … The recipe allows for using whole milk or 2% or 1% milk. What about skim milk? If I use skim will I need to make other adjustments in the recipe?

    Yes, skim milk will work fine in this recipe without any recipe changes.-Jon

    Reply
  2. Mandi

    I’m so excited to try these! The last time I tried to make homemade crackers they turned out bland but these look anything but. And I just got a dough docker so this is a fun first project for it. Thanks for the recipe!

    Great timing! These crackers are reeeeaaaaally good, so I think you will enjoy them too-Jon

    Reply
  3. biobaker

    Is this basically a pie crust with added cheese? Or am I missing something different, ingredient- or technique-wise?

    Sure, you could describe the recipe that way. The crackers bake long enough to become crunchy and a lovely deep gold/orange color. This might actually be an interesting crust for an apple pie, eh? PJH

    Reply
  4. SarahD

    I’m looking forward to trying these. I bake just about everything we eat from scratch, but my attempts at crackers in the past have resulted largely in jawbreakers. I’m hoping these will break that trend.

    I am sure these will work well for you! Just make sure to use our method for measuring flour.-Jon

    Reply
  5. Jean Moore

    I am definitely going to make these! BUT I noticed the recipe itself does not suggest to dock the crackers before baking to prevent pillowing. If I had not read the “how to do it” version, I would not have known that was an important step. May I suggest adding the pricking instruction to the recipe itself?
    Thanks KAF!!!

    Reply
  6. Jen

    I like to roll out cracker dough directly on the parchment and transfer the whole thing onto a cookie sheet that is preheating in the oven. I turn the sheet around at halftime and switch sheets when time’s up. I have to be careful of incinerating my hands, but that’s what oven mitts are for!

    Reply
  7. Esther

    Just made these. After an extra sprinkling of parmesan and garlic powder, my 11 year old declared these a success!

    Reply
  8. Rosemary

    Just made these and they are a big disappointment. They certainly looked good and sounded good on the blog and on Facebook. I followed the recipe exactly, even grated my fresh expensive Parmesan cheese, crunchy Maldon sea salt and fresh rosemary topping. Your cheesy Vermont crackers are much better, I have made those with your white whole wheat. I just threw half the dough in the compost pile. Go buy yourself some cheese-its if you want a good cracker and save yourself a lot of time and trouble.
    We are so sorry this was such a disappointment this time around, Rosemary! Elisabeth

    Reply
  9. ruthie

    Since this dough is kind of a laminate, would it be possible to bake them without the toppings, then spritz them with water and rebake for more puff? Makes a lighter cracker, I think, and I’d like to try that if you think it would work.
    Thanks

    It may be easier to think pie crust method here instead of laminated dough method. We didn’t try your method for getting lighter crackers, but if you’re in an experimenting mood and would like to post your results all reader/bakers would appreciate it. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    Reply
  10. Kay from Denmark

    What do you folks think the shelf life would be? I’d like to take them to a meeting… We travel on a Friday, the meeting I’d like them for is the following Wednesday evening… Would they be ok?

    I normally make and bring cookies, but I’d like to have some non-sweets this year.

    These crackers should last about 1 week if kept cool and dry, preferably in an airtight container.-Jon

    Reply
  11. Amy

    Has anyone tried making the dough and freezing before baking? I’m looking for things to make ahead of time leading up to hosting Christmas. I try to do as much freezing of doughs as possible.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Amy, this should work just fine. Wrap the dough in plastic, then foil – very thoroughly – to prevent excessive drying out; I’d also add an additional tablespoon of milk, to help combat that inevitable drying out of the dough. Good luck – PJH

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