Tag Archives: easy recipes

Homemade Cheese Crackers

Homemade Cheese Crackers​

Step aside, Cheez-Its! There are new cheese crackers in town! Oh yes, these Homemade Cheese Crackers have it all: they’re crispy, flaky, buttery, tangy, salty, and oh-so cheesy, just like the store bought version I love so much.

Homemade Cheese Crackers​

To that end, why should you go through the (minimal) effort to make Homemade Cheese Crackers when you can just go get a box of Cheez-Its? Well, for one, because it’s fun to DIY sometimes. And for two, because this recipe has seven ingredients, all of which are familiar and which include real cheddar cheese! No weird powders or preservatives here.

Besides the brick of cheddar, you’ll find butter, flour, salt, water, and dijon mustard for that signature cheese cracker tang. “But Liz, that’s only six ingredients!” Well, yes, that’s true. The seventh is the flaky finishing salt of your choice, which goes on right before baking for extra salty crunch!

This dough is a dream. It comes together in under five minutes in the food processor, doesn’t require a chill, and rolls and re-rolls flawlessly. I like to roll these crackers very thin (1/8”) and cut them in 1” squares. After being tiled out on a piece of parchment, I give each one a poke with the small end of a mixer attachment because I want each to have a visible hole, like Cheez-Its. You can also use a toothpick or prick each one with a fork—no matter what though, make sure these have some sort of vent so steam doesn’t build up during baking. We want crispy crackers, not soggy ones!

As for quantity, I don’t know the exact number of crackers this recipe makes, but it’s a lot. I’d guess at least the amount in a box of Cheez-Its, if not more. They also keep for up to a week, but I doubt they’ll last that long. They certainly don’t when I’m around.

Homemade Cheese Crackers
makes lots

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated by hand (not pre-shredded!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons prepared dijon mustard
1/3 cup cold water
flaky salt, for finishing

Place oven racks in the central positions. Preheat oven to 400F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine flour, salt, grated cheddar, butter and mustard. Process until combined, with no large pieces of cheese or butter. Add water and process until dough starts to gather into a ball.

Flour your hands, a surface, and a rolling pin. Turn the dough onto the surface and give it a couple of kneads to combine. If you do not want to make crackers immediately, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to bake, you may roll it out cold or at room temperature.

Divide it in half. Loosely cover one half with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Roll the remaining half of the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife (or bench scraper) to cut it into 1-inch squares. Carefully transfer squares to the baking sheets. Poke each square with a toothpick or other object to let steam out. Sprinkle with flaky salt.

Bake crackers 15-16 minutes, rotating the pans at the 10 minute mark for even browning. Let crackers cool on the pans. They will fully crisp up as they cool. Repeat rolling and baking with remaining dough and scraps.

Crackers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.

Banana Crumb Muffins

Internet, meet my freezer stash of bananas. Freezer stash of bananas, meet the internet.

Banana Crumb Muffins​

These brown bananas have been taking up space in my freezer since Christmas and it’s time to clear them out for…well, honestly, probably more brown bananas. The cycle continues, but that’s beside the point.

(The point is to bake good things with bananas, obviously.)

Banana Crumb Muffins

Of all the things you can make with sad bananas, none will ever beat banana bread/muffins. I’ve posted several recipes for both over the years, and while they all have their strengths, I think these are my best effort yet.

I’ve been making this particular recipe weekly for nearly a year now; the people I work for love banana muffins. I make them with bananas from their freezer stash, throwing them in the microwave for a minute or two while I prepare the other ingredients, then squeezing the fruit into a bowl and mashing it to smithereens.

I throw 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips into the batter for work, but lately I am more interested in coffee cake-style crumb topping. I love its crispy texture and pop of buttery cinnamon flavor—it really takes these otherwise plain banana muffins to another level.

Banana Crumb Muffins are easy to make and really delicious. The batter is very straightforward—nothing out of the ordinary—and the crumb is just whisking some melted butter into flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until, well, crumbly. Break it up with your fingers and distribute it over the muffin batter, then bake until brown and a little craggy.

Banana Crumb Muffins

As with most banana baked goods, these are good the day they’re made, but great with a little time. That said, good luck keeping them around for more than a day or two.

Banana Crumb Muffins
Banana Crumb Muffins
makes 14-16 muffins

Crumb:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Muffin Batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease or use muffin liners in 14-16 cups of a standard muffin tin. Fill the remaining cups 1/3-1/2 of the way with water (to keep the pan from warping in the oven). Set aside.

Make the crumb. In a small bowl, which together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add melted butter and whisk until everything is saturated. It should be the texture of damp sand, holding together when pinched. Set aside.

Make the muffin batter. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and buttermilk, followed by eggs and mashed banana. Add dry ingredients. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold ingredients together just until combined. Batter will be thick.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling nearly to the top. Tap full pans on the counter 5 times to release large air bubbles. Scatter crumb over the top of the filled cups and press down lightly with your fingers to adhere.

Bake 5 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375F and bake another 15-16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let muffins cool in the pan for at least five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Serve. Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for a couple of days, but may be refrigerated for up to 5.

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread

If you’ve never had English Muffin Bread, you’re in for a treat. It’s got all the craggy cornmeal-edged goodness of a quality English muffin, but baked into a loaf that you can slice as thick as you like and toast to golden perfection! It’s wildly easy to make—no proofing yeast or kneading, and only one rise *in the pan*—and it’s so good that I actually really love doing multiple tests on it. Don’t mind me over here packing my freezer with sliced English Muffin Bread. Nothing to see here!

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread

My recipe for plain/classic English Muffin Bread can be found by clicking here. Please treat yourself to a loaf or two, heavily toasted with lots of butter, and then come back for this Cinnamon Raisin version.

Yep, that’s right. Cat’s out of the bag. I’m a raisin person! I like them in cookies, carrot cake, and a chicken stew my mom makes, among many other things (though never with or when I am expecting chocolate). I am sure this is a giant waving red flag for some of you, but we all have our flaws, and mine is that I enjoy the occasional raisin-speckled baked good. I like dried grapes and I like them in stuff and I’m not going to feel bad about it, okay? Okay.

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread

If you are not a raisin person, I’ll get you with the next recipe, but this one’s for my fellow raisin enthusiasts and me. Because we know what’s good, and thickly-sliced, craggy, deeply toasted Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread with butter is very good. It’s pretty outstanding with peanut butter, too, if that’s more your speed. I usually go with one slice each way—a single piece of toast is rarely enough.

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread

My favorite part of this recipe? It takes exactly the same amount of time and effort as plain English Muffin Bread, which is to say…not very much. You’ll need all of 10 minutes to measure, stir together and divide the recipe into two loaves, an hour to rise over the top of the pan and 30 minutes to bake. The absolute most important part of this whole process is not slicing into the baked bread until it’s completely cool. Just don’t do it! The bread needs the cooling time to set its hole structure, and will be dense, gummy and otherwise weird if you slice it while it’s warm. Resist the intoxicating smells of fresh bread and cinnamon! It’s for your own good. Your breakfast’s, too.

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread
Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread
makes 2 loaves

For the pans:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3-4 tablespoons cornmeal

Bread Dough:
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) instant yeast
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 2/3 cups warm water

For proofing:
plastic wrap
oil, butter or cooking spray

For serving:
butter
peanut butter

Grease 2 9x5-inch loaf pans with butter. Add cornmeal and rotate pans so that the entire insides are coated in a thin layer. Tap out and discard excess cornmeal.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and instant yeast. Stir in raisins.

In a large liquid measuring cup (or other vessel) whisk together melted butter and warm water. It should be warm to the touch (90-110F) but not hot.

Whisk/stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients in two installments. Stir until a sticky, shaggy dough forms and flour is coated, then stir an additional 30 seconds to make sure things are saturated.

Grease your hands, then divide dough into prepared pans. Grease 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Lay them loosely over the top of each loaf pan.

Place pans in a warm, draft-free environment for 45-60 minutes, or until the dough has risen just above the tops of the pans. While dough is rising, preheat oven to 400F.

When dough is ready, gently peel off and discard plastic wrap. Dough may seem a bit wet and jiggly. Gently place pans in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden all over. The interior temperature should be at least 190F.

Immediately turn bread out onto a rack. Let cool completely so crumb structure can set. Do not slice into bread until it is completely cool.

Slice and toast before serving with butter, peanut butter, or your topping of choice. Leftovers will keep well-wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a week.

French Onion Grilled Cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese

When I was in college, I thought French Onion Soup was pure luxury. That may have been because I lived in a very small town at the time, or perhaps because caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, and well-browned croutons are delicious and feel inherently fancy. Gruyere, at least, has the price tag to prove it. This classic and an extra saucy order of Strawberries Romanoff were my meal of choice at a local chain every time I went to Dallas for solo dinner & a movie during those years. It always hit the spot and felt like a treat.

(For those of you wondering what kind of college student drives an hour each way to get chain restaurant soup and see movies by herself, know that I was 85 years old at birth. Thirty six years later, I am still 85 years old.)

While things have changed since college—you won’t find me eating at many chain restaurants and I live in the largest city in my country of origin—I still dig French Onion Soup. I’ve made Julia Child’s recipe several times and it’s pretty perfect, and there are many good versions around NYC too. It’s simple food, made of caramelized onions, herbs, beef stock and cognac, and finished off with a crouton and some blistered gruyere cheese. It’s so good!

All that said, may I suggest that you leave the soup for another day and make French Onion Grilled Cheese instead? Think about it: herby caramelized onions and gruyere stacked on buttered sourdough and then seared to golden brown, crunchy, cheesy perfection. I mean, what’s not to love?!

French Onion Grilled Cheese

The most time consuming step of this whole recipe is caramelizing the onions. Some cooks will tell you that you can do this in 15 minutes over medium-high heat, but they are wrong. What they’re doing is sautéing, which is a great technique, but that’s not what we’re after in our French Onion Grilled Cheeses. Nope! We’re going the low and slow route, watching the onions collapse and then take on color as their natural sugars are drawn out little by little. This will take anywhere from 45-75 minutes, but I assure you it will be worth the investment.

Yes, caramelizing onions takes time, but it’s easy as can be. I frequently put a pan on the back burner while I’m working on another dish, occasionally reaching over and giving them a stir until they are browned to my preference. While caramelized onions need no help to be delicious, I like to add some French Onion flavor here so I finish them off with thyme, dijon mustard, beef (or vegetable) stock, salt & pepper. I don’t drink, so I leave the cognac out of the equation, but feel free to add a splash to the mix.

Once finished, you can use your onions right away or cover and refrigerate for later. I like to think of this as having French Onion Grilled Cheese on demand.

As for the sandwiching, it’s Grilled Cheese 101. Low heat, lots of butter, and time (about 8 minutes) are all that stand between you and crispy, cheesy, savory French Onion perfection. Pure luxury, indeed.

French Onion Grilled Cheese
French Onion Grilled Cheese
makes 4 sandwiches

For the Onions:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium Spanish or white onions, 1/2-inch thick half moons
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon dijon or grainy mustard
1/4 cup beef or vegetable stock
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

For the Sandwiches:
8 slices sourdough
dijon or grainy mustard
8 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
few pinches of Kosher or sea salt, as needed

Make the onions. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and deeply caramelized; this will take 45-75 minutes. Do not rush this step.

When onions are caramelized, stir in thyme, mustard, and stock, stirring until incorporated, but not soupy. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. At this point, you may either use the onions immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Lay all slices of bread on a surface. Spread four of the slices with mustard. Top mustard slices with ~2 tablespoons caramelized onions each, spreading to cover. Sprinkle each one with 1/4 of the gruyere. Top cheese with plain slices of bread, “closing” the sandwiches. Use a knife to spread 1/2 tablespoon softened butter on both sides of each sandwich (1 tablespoon butter per sandwich). Sprinkle butter with salt if using unsalted butter.

Heat a medium-large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add sandwiches buttered-bread-side-down. Let sandwiches cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Flip sandwiches and let cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the other side, about 3 more minutes.

Remove to plates and serve immediately.

One Big Sprinkle Sugar Cookie

This is a break from my regularly scheduled Savory January programming because I have a new One Big Cookie and it’s too good to wait to share.

One Big Sprinkle Sugar Cookie​

What’s a One Big Cookie, you ask? Why, it’s basically my favorite dessert: a recipe for exactly one cookie the size of my hand. It’s perfect for random dessert cravings, or when you want a dessert you don’t have to share (though you can if you’re kinder than I am).

One Big Sprinkle Sugar Cookie​

I’ve made several One Big Cookies over the last few years, so whether you’re into chocolate chip, chocolate M&Ms, snickerdoodle, oatmeal, or peanut butter cookies, there’s one to fit your tastes. Today’s has been a long time coming: One Big Sprinkle Sugar Cookie! It’s got all the buttery vanilla flavor and chewy texture you love in a classic sugar cookie, plus a ton of crunchy, colorful sprinkles. Truly, this is the cookie of my rainbow sprinkle dreams.

Just like all my other variations, this big cookie is measured in spoons and mostly mixed with a fork. Form the resulting soft dough into a ball, then press it into a puck before baking for optimal crinkly top formation. Crinkly cookie tops bursting with sprinkles are one of my love languages.

Basically anything with rainbow sprinkles is one of my love languages.

One Big Sprinkle Sugar Cookie​

That said, if you are one of those people who doesn’t like sprinkles, this recipe will work without them. I may fundamentally misunderstand you as a person, but you can still have a helluva sugar cookie all to yourself, and that’s what really matters here.

One Big Sprinkle Sugar Cookie​
One Big Sprinkle Sugar Cookie
makes 1 large cookie

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon water (not cold)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles (jimmies, not nonpareils)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Make the dough. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together melted butter and sugar. Mix in water and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk until a dough forms; a silicone spatula may be helpful here. Fold in sprinkles.

Use your hands to form dough into a ball. Place on parchment and use the heel of your hand to press down gently, just so that the dough is more of an inch-thick disk/puck and less of a ball.

Bake for 13-14 minutes or until the top is craggy and appears just slightly underdone.

Let cookie cool on the pan for 5-7 minutes before using a spatula to remove it to a plate. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.