Spicy Polenta-Cheese Crackers Recipe
Made from polenta, buttermilk, cayenne pepper, and Parmesan cheese, this is a perfect party cracker recipe.
A good cracker is hard to find. I steer clear of many of the mass-produced brands. Many of the artisan types can be expensive and heavy on flavorings - black pepper, rosemary, etc. Inevitably, when I pop into a store to stock up, the more neutral flavors that I like to serve with certain wines or cheeses are sold out. My theory? The key to a good and reliable cracker supply is zeroing in on a good cracker recipe. Once you lock onto a solid cracker-making technique, like the one I'm going to highlight today, making crackers is a breeze. Thank you Patricia Wells.
I have in my possession Patricia's new book, Vegetable Harvest: Vegetables at the Center of the Plate. I have most (all?) of her books and prize them for their direct, accessible, and inspiring recipes - I wrote about her Honey Ice Cream from The Paris Cookbook a couple years back. Looking at her new book, it took me a looong time to figure out which recipe to try first, eventually deciding on her crackers. Because of the focus of the book, I thought about going for one of the more veg-centric recipes, but the crackers eventually won me over.
I went for the crackers in part because I was curious about the polenta-based dough, and also because I've had numerous conversations about making crackers in the past two weeks. It seems as if crackers are in the air - one friend was telling me about making the worlds best crackers for a wedding she catered with a friend. Another friend was telling me about a class taught by Peter Reinhart where they apparently made the ultimate crackers from whole-grain flour (and various seeds, if my memory serves me correctly). Peter's book should be out relatively soon, so I'll see if he'll hook us up with that cracker recipe to celebrate the occasion when the time comes.
So, in the end, cracker curiosity won me over - and this turned out to be a good thing because I was absolutely delighted with Patricia's recipe. I loved the unique polenta/flour blend for the cracker, the polenta sucks the buttermilk right up and makes the dough extremely easy to deal with once you've let it sit for a few minutes. Rolling it out extremely thin is no problem whatsoever. As far as cracker design goes, you can cut the crackers any shape you like. Next time I'm going to do long slab-like strips. This version has a touch of cayenne, but you could easily do a more neutral version. I can imagine many many variations on this cracker incorporating different spice blends and add-ins (or not) - whatever you end up doing just be sure nothing is too chunky, you'll run into trouble rolling out the dough.
In addition to this recipe, Vegetable Harvest is overflowing with ideas. I've earmarked more recipes than I'll ever get around to making - and it's clear, Patricia's love of chickpeas rivals my own. I counted seven recipes featuring them. Others recipes from the book that caught my attention:
- Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Hazelnut Oil
- Warm Goat Cheese and Artichoke Cannelloni
- Golden Cauliflower and Rice Pilaf
- Lamb's Lettuce Puree
- Pumpkin Gratin with Pistachios and Pistachio Oil
- Goat Cheese "Oreos" with Truffles
- Sheep's Milk Yogurt Sorbet
Also worth noting, the 300+ page book includes lots of ingredient-based photographs (vs. recipe illustrating photographs). Separately, while the emphasis of this book is on vegetables taking center stage, Patricia does incorporate fish & shellfish, meat & poultry chapters. Enjoy!
Spicy Polenta-Cheese Crackers
Heidi notes: Don't burn them, cooking time will vary depending on how thin you've actually rolled them - they can burn in no time. I started watching these in the oven at 6 minutes, mine were really on the thing side, so I pulled them out after eight minutes.
Equipment: A food processor or a blender; 2 nonstick baking sheets; a 1 3/4-inch round biscuit cutter or a glass.
1 cup bread flour (hs note: white whole wheat flour works as well)
1 cup instant polenta
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken to blend
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a food processor or a blender, combine the flour, polenta, sea salt, baking soda, cayenne pepper, and cheese. Process to blend. Add the butter and process just until the mixture resemble coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and process until the dough just forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few seconds. Wrap in plastic and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Cut the dough into quarters. Set one quarter on a lightly floured surface; cover the remaining pieces with plastic. Roll out the dough 1/16 inch thick. Using a 1 3/4-inch biscuit cutter or a glass, cut out rounds of dough and arrange them on a nonstick baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until the crackers are golden and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Once cool, transfer to airtight containers. The crackers can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Makes 75 crackers.
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I can do without the cayenne pepper but I will try this with some dried thyme and drizzel with roasted sesame oil. Now what kind of cheese would be best? Humm, how about a dried yogurt? Thanks for the ideas. Mark
Those crackers look gorgeous -- I can almost smell them through the Internetwebthing. Any recommendations for a wine pairing?
Myra, polenta is simply cornmeal. cooked polenta is sometimes thought of as the italian alternative to mashed potatoes. look for it near the flour.
These crackers look and sound amazing! I love homemade crackers and can't wait to try these!
I know I'm the last to think of this, but I run my cracker dough through the pasta roller. It's entertaining and gets the crackers uniformly (and easily) thin. my two cents.
Funny, but I bought quite a bit of cheese lately, and I made crackers to go with. Just a plain dough topped with olive oil and sea salt flakes. The polenta crackers sound good for next time. Thanks for the recipe.
This is really crazy! I have been making batches of crackers recently, with no prompting from blogs or recipes. It just looked like something that a person with an oven could do. I made mine with poppyseeds and various peppers and olive oil. They were of varying thinness due to my (lack of) technique but it was a nice variation. I served them with brie for easter. Now this is a recipe to take another crack at crackers with!
This recipe looks wonderful, I can't wait to try it out :) I love it when I have all the ingredients for a recipe at home, woohoo!
Can anybody tell me what instant polenta is? Or what I could substitute? These sound wonderful and I would really love to try them but I've never heard of instant polenta. Love this site - and everything I've made has been wonderful. Thanks!
Sub for buttermilk: Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk or soymilk. Any suggestions on what you could sub for the cheese? As in, instead of cheese? I'd leave it out, but it appears to be a large volume in the recipe.
Oh, yum. I adore Patricia Wells and need to get my hands on this book! Sounds so yummy, as always. I feel the same way about store-bought crackers. Seems more efficient and tasty to just make your own. I'll bet these freeze well, too.
I use polenta very much since I live in Uruguay in the 80's, great for kids...this recipe seems to be a great idea!! I know what buttermilk is, and used it a lot when I was in USA. Can somebody help me... what can I use insted of it?? or the name fot it in Europe or other places??' Thanks from Lisbon this time... Love your website!!!
Oh, I cant wait to try this amazing recipe. I also want to know if i can substitute semolina for polenta and what cheeses to substitute for Parmigiano-Reggiano coz I dont know if I can get the cheese available locally. Im a big fan of crackers with different toppings with my evening tea. I recently blogged about all sorts of stuff you can top of the crackers and my fav is a good avo salsa dip, and i bet that green puree on the side look like avo, yeah?
I've never used instant polenta, might regular polenta be substituted by running it through the food processor like you can with rolled oats? hmm... I could just go get some instant polenta and check it out...
Hi Snehal, You wouldn't happen to be willing to give us your recipe for your Lemon/Polenta Biscuit Crisps, would you???? They sound marvelous, and I'd like to try something different for my Bridge club next weekend. What kind of cheese do you use with these crackers, Snehal? Thanks for your help.
Crackers must be on everyone's mind - I just made a batch of sesame-siracha crackers today! I like to use my pasta machine to get cracker dough really thin.
We've just been talking about making our own crackers in order to further eliminate partially hydrogenated fats--these look like a good place to start. Maybe with some seeds pressed into the tops?
Crackers are indeed in the air. I like the Martha Stewart recipes for crackers in her hors d'oeuvres cookbook, especially the cheddar ones. These look great. I especially like how delicate they look. What's the green purée on the side? Makes me want to pick up a cracker and swipe right through it. Thanks.
Looks good .... would semolina work in this recipe instead of polenta? They have similar textures and I have a big jar of semolina sitting in my pantry ... I made something similar .. sweet Lemon and Polenta biscuits/crisps .... they are crunchy and melt-in-the-mouth .. truly unique texture.
Just curious--wouldn't it be a good idea to bake these on parchment paper? I've never baked crackers (will try this recipe). I think I'm a pretty good cookie baker/. Parchment paper has definitely helped me succeed with the more delicate cookies. Love your website! Thanks for all of the great ideas, recipes, and fellowship!
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