Saturday, February 6, 2010

Seedy Crisps and Cheese (Balls), or In Which I am the only person in America not making Super Bowl foods.

I guess you could say that I really dislike most sports. I never enjoyed playing organized sports, grew up in a family who never paid any mind to what sport was in season, and generally was never interested at all in using my free time to watch them either in person or on television. I embarrassed myself terribly each fall Friday when guessing the high school football team's final score in one of the Coach-taught classes I took, since my number combinations were never actual possibilities. I forget why I even took part in this, I think a reward was involved for the winner.

My view of sports changed somewhat when I met my Husband. I watched more baseball in the summer of 2004 than I did in my entire life to date, and to tell the truth, it did seep into my blood a bit. But baseball is not where the sporting events my Husband follows ends - in fact it is just one of many sports that interest him. If I made a list of sports I could watch that he does enjoy in order of my relative enjoyment (and I'll limit it to 10 items here...) it would be as follows (number 10 being most tolerable):

10. Baseball
9. Wrestling
8. Boxing
7. Hockey
6. Soccer
5. Golf
4. Basketball
3. Tennis
2. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA or UFC)
1. Football

I'm not sure why I hate football more than any other American alive, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I can not understand the rules at all. Can't and don't want to, if I am being honest. This past week or so, I've read a lot about what food bloggers will be having for their Super Bowl parties, or have had at parties in the past. I now have a whopping 5 Super Bowl parties under my belt - and kind of feel bad that I can't really identify to the most American of sports and food spectacles.

As a kid, Super Bowl Sunday was just another Sunday to us. I honestly do not recall my Dad or brothers ever being interested it it. And it wasn't until 1999, that I asked R1's husband and he tried explaining the rules to me a little. It was usually on Packer-football Sundays that she and I would either go for a walk or go shopping in pleasantly dead stores instead of me practicing how to understand a spectator sport. (If I am being fully honest, I will say that in 2001, I did watch the entire Super Bowl for the first time in my apartment in Wilton, armed with some now-forgotten knowledge. I was more interested in the commercials, and I think my little brother came and brought a bag of chips with him - so that was kind of a party...)

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.


  1. My mom used to make homemade crackers. Maybe a financial necessity? These look great, and it would be fun to give it a try.
    I enjoy your blog.

  2. Thank you, Otehila! I had a quick glance over at yours and will be going back really soon- can't wait! You had me at "The Hungry Month"...

  3. I think I might be the only person in the country who knows and cares less about the superbowl than you!! But I do have the excuse of being a foreigner! The crackers look great: I think its time for me to pledge to never buy another store bought cracker.

  4. Talia,
    We think the same: Since the last Daring Baker Challenge, I pledged never to buy graham crackers again... and these Seedy Crisps are really easy enough that I think I'll pledge to them too!

  5. Rebecca, first thanks for the "nod" to my blog and love of cheese balls. I have to say, your rendition of my recipe looks delicious as a cheese spread. That is would I like about blogging ~ we get to try & experiment with different methods and you have accomplished this in spades.

    Your crisp are fantastic and perfect for a variety of spreads. I will definitely make a batch for my next get-together.

    Have fun at the Super Bowl party and again many thanks for the "nod".

  6. George,
    My nod in your direction is completely warranted! I was actually surprised at how good this was, I'd even put it in the "addictive" category! I'm glad you shared it!

  7. I love the Superbowl and would totally make this - it is appropriate. :) Have a good day and stay warm...just looking at that cheese makes me all warm inside!

  8. Wow. The crackers sound awesome and very healthy. I like the use of the whole wheat flour. I agree with your feelings about football -- don't know the rules, don't really care. I made brownies today, so I am definitely not sticking to Super-Bowl-only recipes!

  9. Speaking of the daring bakers: I am so excited for my first month... I think i'm going to bake this weekend!

  10. I was thinking of doing the DB challege this weekend, too... But it seems involved, so I may procrastinate. I love the recipe, though!

  11. You're in good company when it comes to caring very little for the Superbowl... or any type of sports, really. I'm convinced I also found one of the last men who really doesn't care either... which I think is a rarity these days. We sometimes use the SuperBowl as an excuse to eat "dippy" foods (and, quite frankly, crap we probably wouldn't eat at any other time). But, you'd be hard-pressed to get either of us to tell you what the score of the game was... or, often, who was even playing :)

    Procrastinating on my Daring Cooks challenge as I type. It's due on the 14th... so guess what I'll be doing on Saturday?? Yikes.

  12. I'm kind of procrastinating mine, too. I think we'll both be in the kitchen on Saturday...


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