2. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA or UFC)
When I checked my computer this morning, George Gaston, of A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse, had commented on one of my posts. I sometimes don't get to reading as many other food blogs as I'd like, just since I don't spend too large a portion of time in front of the computer. I clicked over to see what he was up to and read the most wonderful description of his love for spreadable cheese balls and parties when he was a child. He was chided for his love of the Cheese Ball, but he came up with a recipe for one that I knew I had to make. Since I had a free day today with dinner already complete (and a Super Bowl party to attend tomorrow with nothing to bring), I thought I'd give it a go.
But in my mental preparations, I knew that I couldn't make a Cheese Ball without first having some kind of cracker to spread it on, so this is where I began:
Alton Brown's Seedy Crisps. I love this recipe, and that it really isn't a messy dough to work with. It's fairly forgiving, has a great flavor, and even keeps well stored in glass for a couple of weeks. Whenever I think of crackers, I think of Alton, since he "doesn't trust his cracker making to elves in trees" and insists in weight measurements for accuracy in baking. I printed out his recipe from Food Network, though it was also featured in one of his books, and usually weigh the water but not the dry ingredients with fine results. You can roll them with a pasta roller as I did, or by hand. Your thickness directly determines the cooking times, so watch carefully.
Seedy Crisps (adapted (but really only the weights) from Alton Brown)
- 5 oz. whole wheat flour (I use 1 c.)
- 4 3/4 oz. AP flour (I use 1 c.)
- 1/3 c. poppy seeds
- 1/3 c. sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 t. table salt (they are a bit salty, you could use 1 t. and be just fine I think)
- 1 1/2 t. baking powder
- 3 T. olive oil
- 6 1/2 fl. oz. water (this is less than a cup, but more than 3/4 c.)
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and then add the olive oil. Stir with a spatula until well mixed. Then add water, and stir/mix/fold until a dough appears. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it 4 or 5 times until it feels like a proper dough. Try not to overwork it. Cover with a towel and let it rest 15 minutes.
Heat oven to 450 degrees, and use the center and above center positions in your oven for the racks. Cut dough into 8 pieces (like a pizza, is the way I do it), and roll with the pasta machine to the thinnest setting without tearing the dough (5 on my Pasta Queen), or roll by hand as thin or thick as you like. (For thin crackers, aim for 1/16 of an inch thick, and for thick 1/8 of an inch.
Alton likes to transfer the large sheet of dough to a parchment lined sheet and bake it whole, breaking it apart when it cools. I did a couple that way, but then cut the rest into strips with a pizza cutter and transferred them to parchment lined sheets with a spatula. It's slightly more work, but less mess in the long run.
Thin crackers will bake about 4 minutes on the first side, then 2-3 more on the other (but I did mine 5 minutes, then flipped and let them bake another 3-4 until they were nice and brown). Thick crackers (according to the recipe) will bake about 6 minutes on the first side, then 4-6 minutes on the second.
The large sheets looked like rustic sheet music, and when I broke off a piece I ate it immediately with a spreading of whipped Novia Scotia blueberry honey that my Parents brought me from their last vacation. I though if I had some prosciutto with the honey, that would have been really perfect. Then I thought, an aged Swiss cheese and that spicy mustard would be really perfect, too. I imagined the possibilities as I took advantage of my hot oven to bake my sweet potato for George's recipe. It was a huge sweet potato, and took almost an hour.
Wait a minute, a Cheese Ball and I'm baking a sweet potato? Go ahead and click over now, since I know you are so curious, and I'll wait for you.
You can see why I was so intrigued by this recipe. It was actually mostly good for you, and so pleasantly absent of that port wine veining, that you know has got to be a FD&C color of some sort. I hardly altered it, too! I did use more jalapenos, and actually didn't add the nuts because I forgot, but that was it. Then, I just left it "dip shaped" instead of classically "Cheese Ball shaped", since I didn't want to fuss.
I made a half recipe since I thought I'd be snacking on it for a week by myself. I even had mental planning to make some bagels for the other 4 oz. of cream cheese, and even the Cheese Ball spread that I knew I would like. Then, I asked my Husband if he wanted to try some "dip", since I knew he already liked the crackers. Success! Am I going to divulge the secret and orange ingredient? Not unless he asks. Now I'm *almost* wishing I was having a Super Bowl party to serve it for.
Please take the time to check out the many amazing recipes and great writing on George's site. you may find a few surprises that you are now glad you won't live without! I know I'm going to be keeping closer tabs on it, too.