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Cheese, In Cracker

By December 5, 2009Cooking

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While I’m still storing up ingredients and time for some larger-scale cooking projects, I thought this one might be a good one to fill a weekend packed with Christmas shopping and gift-wrapping. My partner and I are celebrating Christmas backwards this year (which is to say: in New Zealand! Cold is warm! Turkey is smoked salmon! Sledding is BBQing! Hot Cocoa is cold beer!), so the gifts being shipped to family back home in Kentucky need to be bought and mailed much earlier.  In the midst of all that, making some cheesy crackers seemed like an easy and doable task.

After executing this one, I’ve decided I love making crackers. You start with some simple dough rolled out and cut like this:

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And six minutes later, they pop out of the oven as lovely crispy pillows, begging to be injected with something!

When I first started this project, I was keen to try to follow the recipes to the letter as closely as possible. This recipe calls for wisconsin cheese. This would be tough to import here, but I think I’m ok with not doing that. Alinea, at its heart, is a restaurant that seeks to celebrate things.  New Zealand has an embarrassment of delicious cheese from which one can sample, so I thought this might be a fun opportunity to buy some of the interesting wax-covered shapes I’m always tempted by (but know nothing about) at our market downtown. I think Chef Achatz would be cool with this.

After poking through the various cheeses (and excitedly discovering Manchego, which I’ll be needing soon), I decided on three local cheddars:
–Kapiti Tuteremoana cheddar
–Whitestone Totara Tasty cheddar
–Blue River Aged cheddar

The Whitestone was my control: I’ve had it several times before and it’s delicious. A part of me wanted to go nuts with blue cheeses or some of the other more-unfamiliar stuff I found at Moore Wilson’s, but no. Restraint.

Boring holes in the poofy crackers was a fairly easy task; I only broke a few. The idea is then to inject them with cheese, which is thinned with a bit of cream. I found the recipe yielded injectable cheese that was quite watery, so for subsequent mixtures I lowered the cream content a bit to thicken things up, which was fine (though, I should say I wasn’t using a needle for injecting the cheese, but just the snub nose of my syringes, so the thinness might be a requisite for a smaller bore).

To help me keep the cheeses visibly-identifiable, I made the crackers into different shapes. Strangely, the round ones seemed to be the least-crisp. The fact that shape plays a role in this is kinda interesting.

The square pillows were my Totara Tasty:

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Round ones were the Kapiti Tuteremoana:

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And the flowers were the Blue River:

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I wish I had the vocabulary to really describe all the nuances of the cheeses (or even the tastebuds to distinguish them).  I’d like to be one of those guys who can describe cheese in the way one might describe a distant relative: “This cheese was a bit offputting at first, clumsy through the door, and generally unruly for most of our time together, but after a sip of wine it calmed down and by the end had proven itself to be tasteful in spite of itself”.  Unfortunately I’m not quite that mature yet, so the following paragraph is my trying to skillfully fake it:

All three cheeses were delicious, though I found the Blue River to be much milder and less sharp. The Kapiti and Whitestone cheeses were quite similar. Kapiti had a slight pungent note that I found a little off-balance when tasting just the cheese, but was covered fairly well once injected into the cracker. The Whitestone cheese still remained my favorite though; it’s flavorful and nicely-balanced. I really enjoy it with a tasting platter of some of NZ’s Honeys.