The holiday season is in full swing with its myriad of complicated, labor-intensive recipes. Braided doughs, sandwiched cookies, decorated everythings. Here’s my gift to you this year: a pair of savory recipes that will satisfy and impress without adding as much stress to the holidays as that candy that must be cooked to some exact temperature will. While the sweets overwhelmingly dominate our visions and mouths this time of year, I find that a savory snack is a welcome divergence if not an outright preference for many.
The first recipe is not mine, but one that I am so in love with that I am willing to share and vouch for it. It comes from the Rachel Ray Every Day website: Olive Oil Crackers. I won’t say that you will never use store-bought crackers again, but these are pretty amazing. It’s almost impossible to replicate a Ritz or Club-type cracker at home (there are some things machines are just better at than humans), but these are so crisp and tasty they will definitely cut down on your purchasing. Crackers are one of my go-to “snack” foods. (I don’t do lots of between meal snacking, but I have been known to eat crackers for supper, with various toppings.) These can be seasoned simply and used for dips or toppings, or be seasoned creatively and eaten by themselves. Here’s the recipe as I make it:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 8-9 tbsp water
- flaky kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (Original recipe says 425, but for my oven 400 is good.)
- Blend together the flour, sugar, and oil. Add enough water for the dough to come together. (I do this in a bowl or right on my counter with my hands, but the original recipe says to use a food processor.)
- Mix until you have a nice smooth dough. Divide the dough in half.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough as thin as you can.
- Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or other seasonings.
- Use a pizza wheel to cut into strips, squares, or whatever.
- Transfer the crackers to a baking sheet. They can be touching; they will puff up a bit but not expand, and can be separated after baking.
- Bake for 10-13 minutes, rotating once. (My heavier silver pans take a bit longer than my thinner dark pans.)
- Cool on the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to a container to cool completely before storing airtight at room temperature.
My only complaint about the recipe on the website is that the water is not included in the ingredients list. I realize it’s not something most people have to buy, but it’s still an ingredient. Also, the instructions say to “sprinkle with salt and pepper,” but pepper is not listed in the ingredients, so I have added it. I really like a little freshly ground pepper on them. While the crackers are in the oven throw together this easy cheese dip:
Ricotta Cheese Dip
- 2 cloves garlic
- 8oz Cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan, or other cheese
- 16oz Ricotta cheese
- a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dried herb blend, such as Herbs de Provence or Italian blend
- salt to taste
- In a food processor with a shredding disc, run through the garlic and semi-firm cheese . A grating disc can be used if using a hard cheese, or grate the garlic and cheese by hand using a box grater.
- Switch to the normal processor blade and add the ricotta cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and herbs. Pulse until smooth.
- Add salt to taste
If your crackers are out of the oven, use them to taste the cheese dip so the salt of the crackers and dip works well together and isn’t too overwhelming.
There’s a lot of room for variation with both of these recipes. Sprinkle the crackers with a za’atar blend and eat them with hummus. Sprinkle the crackers with a bit of cayenne pepper (or stir some hot sauce in with the brushing oil), and use blue cheese in the dip for a buffalo-style snack. Everything Bagel seasoning is hot right now- use it on the crackers and serve with cream cheese. Whatever direction you go, people will be amazed that you took the time to make your own crackers, and the cheese dip is the icing on the cake, but easier and savory respite in a time of endless sweets.
Be Brave: try the cheese dip on a pear!