Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Great Cheez It Experiment

Have you seen the movie Food, Inc? Brad and I watched it a while back. It was a great movie and as it boasts on the dvd cover, it will make you re-think your dinner. A lot of it was not a news flash for us, we've always tried to eat consciously, buy organic, etc. Some times with more success, other times slipping into convenience food mode, cheese dusted hands held guiltily in the air.
This movie rejuvenated our desire to eat more wholesome, unprocessed food. I had also recently read the book Food Rules, written by Michael Pollan who was a big contributor in the movie. Some of his food rules (not really all his, some are ancient pieces of food culture and things you may have heard your grandmother say)include 'avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry' and 'eat mostly foods that will eventually rot'...basically get away from processed junk loaded with preservatives, spend more but eat less, etc.
So...I love Cheez Its. I buy them everytime I'm at Heinen's or Target or Giant Eagle. I eat them as a snack, love them with coffee (weird I know), red wine, coke zero (another vice i'll have to work on), an egg sandwich or tomato soup. Bek has inherited my love for cheez its. Sadly, cheez its contain a lot of things our bodies may or may not be great at processing. Genetically modified junk, hydrogenated oils, msg, and other artificial crap that's too hard too spell. In the big picture of snack foods and relative to many they are not that bad, if the comparison is a cool ranch dorito or an extreme cheddar cheeto.
So I decided I would try to make my own. I'd read 'make your own crackers' recipe articles before and always wanted to give homemade crackers a whirl. It was easy, ok a teensy bit more time consuming that going to the store and buying a box of cheez its, but way more satisfying! I knew exactly what we were devouring, er eating, once these flaky, buttery cheezy little things came out of the oven! It should be noted that while they are more "wholesome" because there are no preservatives and I used mostly organic ingredients, all of us girls know that a calorie is still a calorie. These are probably a special treat and should be consumed in moderation. (argh! curse you moderation!)Here's the details of my homemade cheez it experiment which I edited from another one I found online:

1 1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cup flour
1 stick of butter, softened/room temp
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper (i used white pepper because i didn't want black flecks on my crackers, but black would be fine)
1 tsp paprika
1/4 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper, more or less according to how much heat you like, i used only a few shakes to keep them family friendly
1 - 2 Tablespoons ice cold water

Put all except water into the food processor, pulse til it's like course bread crumbs. slowly add one tablespoon of the water and pulse til it comes together, add more water if it's not coming together. it will look like pie crust dough. Dump it out onto a floured surface, kneed a few times and let it rest for 1/2 hour.
Preheat oven to 325.
Roll dough out thin on floured surface, 1/8" or less. Use a pizza cutter to cut long strips about an inch wide, then horizontally to make squares. Poke each square w/ the small end of a chopstick or whatever stick you can find that will make a small hole! the tine of a fork might work. They puff up quite a bit if you don't do this; still taste delicious though so don't worry if you skip this! Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.
Line up on parchment (or non stick) lined pans, bake for 13-15 mins. cool on wire rack. try not to burn your tongue when you can't resist eating them right out of the oven.
I'm anxious to try different cheeses, would love swiss or gruyere, maybe some garlic, dill or rosemary.
Let me know how yours turn out!

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