Sunday, January 06, 2008

Melt-in-the-Mouth Morsels

*Thank you*, all you lovely people who humored my silliness and participated in the guessing game. I think people were expecting a vegetable hiding in there for sure, because so many of the guesses were sweet potato, potato, butternut squash, pumpkin, plantain, banana, eggplant, yam. Some of the more exotic guesses were tapioca, tofu, leek, peanut butter, tahini, coconut...and others thought it was a pantry staple like besan, bread, polenta, cooked rice. The yellow/orange hue probably led to suggestions of orange, papaya, carrot, saffron, toor dal, while the red flecks were thought of as tomato and red pepper (Rodosee, you are partially right). The sesame seeds led some to believe that this is a sesame cookie, while one person was quite sure that the sesame is for decoration only.

To tell you the truth, all of these sound like perfectly delicious ingredients for a cookie/fritter and something I would definitely love to make and eat. Well, I am so sorry to disappoint everybody who has vegetables on their mind, but the correct guess was one of the last comments: CHEESE! Congratulations, Zlamushka! Your logic is impeccable. You live too far away for me to send you a prize :( so please make do with a big hug for now :D Cheese was also the first of Linda's string of guesses (LOL)"Cheese. Peanut butter. Tahini. Tofu. Miso!??" so you get the second non-prize, Linda :D

This recipe comes from the cookbook Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies. I saw these delightful savory cheese cookies first on Cathy's blog as she wrapped up her huge project of baking and sharing every single cookie in this classic book. My copy of Maida's cookie book is extra-special to me because it was a gift from Cathy herself. For Hindi and Marathi speakers, the name of this author is a bit of a play on words because her first name is Maida, and maida or all-purpose flour is an ingredient (and usually the largest ingredient by proportion) in almost every cookie recipe (although I must clarify that the two are pronounced differently- her name is pronounced May-Da, and our Indian word maida is more like meh-da). This recipe is the only savory cookie in the book and I just had to try it as a special, decadent treat for New Year's eve.

Talk about a short ingredient list: these crackers call for just three ingredients. Cheese, Flour, Butter. Yes, in that order. In the proportion 4:2:1. So, Ramya, you rightly guessed that there is maida in there, but it is not the main ingredient! Well, you do add a little bit of red chilli powder for a delicious kick, and sprinkle the crackers with a few sesame seeds. Can you just imagine how rich they are? For those who have any notion whatsoever about sensible eating, these crackers should be strictly made for special social occasions where you will be forced to share these with many other people. They are very very delicious, and you will lose all self-control if you have a platter all to yourself. Been there, done that (hanging head in shame).

Any hard, melting cheese would work well in this recipe, although the original calls for sharp cheddar. I had bits and bobs of hard cheeses that I wanted to use up, so I made up the 2 cups with a combination 3 different cheeses- pepper jack, some English cheese that had sun-dried tomato in it, and sharp cheddar. The pepper and sun-dried tomato contributed those red flecks. I'm a cheese wimp and won't eat stinky strong cheeses out of hand, but you definitely need a sharp-tasting cheese here to get flavorful results. Even I will concede that. The sesame seeds are more than mere decoration here- they complement the taste of the cheese in a very pleasing way.

Apart from the taste of these crackers, they were just a lot of fun to make. And real easy-breezy. Mixing in the dough takes mere minutes, then the dough is rolled into logs and wrapped up and tucked into the fridge. When you want fresh-baked crispy pennies, simply fire up the oven, slice the log and bake within minutes. The results are sure to impress company. The tangy, salty crackers pair deliciously with any drink; we enjoyed these with mulled cider, and another time with wine. The log slices beautifully; the knife goes through it as if it were butter. Wait, it *is* mostly butter!

Maida Heatter's Cheese Pennies

(Adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies, makes about 40-50 two-bite crackers)
2 C finely shredded sharp cheddar (or similar cheese)
1 C sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 C butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 t red chilli powder or cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
1/2 t salt
toasted sesame seeds
1. Sift together the flour, salt and red chilli powder.
2. In a bowl, beat the softened butter until creamy.
3. Stir the cheese into the butter and beat together until completely blended.
4. Stir in the flour mixture bit by bit until it gets fully incorporated.
5. Gather up the dough and shape into 2 circular or rectangular logs. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate anywhere from 5-6 hours to 2-3 days.
6. At the time of baking, pre-heat oven to 350F. Slice the log into quarter-inch thick slices. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet (trust me, these are self-greasing cookies). Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 12-15 minutes or until just golden (any more and the cheese will burn). Once out of the oven, transfer them right away to racks where they will cool and become nice and crisp.

Here are the cheese pennies, all ready to get the party started...

(Thanks for the beautiful serving dish, Madhu!)

Have a wonderful week, and I will see you in a few.


  1. You had us there Nupur, Cheese Pennies look awesome, like that it had be baked and not deep fried.

  2. Oh, fabulous cheese! I had a funny feeling... :) Well-aged cheese, like the best sharp cheddars, freezes beautifully. I wouldn't be surprised if this dough didn't freeze well, too. The chili powder and sesame are perfect to complement those lovely crackers, Nupur. Thanks for sharing the recipe :)

  3. How nice to learn that the secret ingredient was cheddar cheese, which is surely my favorite ingredient!

  4. Yummy cookies. Calories Smalories as Asha had comented somewhere..I think these cookies need to be consumed keeping that in mind. These cookies have made me drool early in the morning.

  5. Oh wow, cheese!!! I know I would have never guessed that one for sure :-D It looks lovely and bet it tasted great too. Good one Nupur!

  6. They look so yummy Nupur. I always visit ur posts and have tried chettinad musrooms, Bhadang and many more things. Love reading the write up in all ur posts.

  7. coool!!!! they do look quite cheesy in the closeup pic :)

  8. Cheese, I would have never guessed! Isn't it funny, the sinful it is, the better it tastes?! The cookies look delicious.

  9. Cheese in cookies appears to be a lovely combination...good try

  10. Lovely cheese crackers. Not even for a moment thought that cheese is the main ingredient. Chillipdr; til seeds,and butter were obvious,though. Thanks for the recipe, dear Nupur

  11. ahh cheese :D cheese pennies, what a cute name. i am on a diet so dont tempt me :(

  12. These do look wonderful -- and dangerous to have around! I do always have little bits of cheeses on hand; I throw them into a container in the freezer, and look for ways to use them (like frittatas) where a mix of cheeses works well. Will definitely try this recipe next time I have people coming for dinner who will promise to eat these cookies and not leave the leftovers around to tempt me.

  13. It could have as easily been tapioca fritters you know... :D
    Look decadent and tasty now that you mention they have oodles of cheese!

  14. Thats cool nupur, cheese pennies eh!!They sure look divine!!

  15. cheese pennies - reminds me of gold! yum! would love to try make it one day

  16. Nupur Nupur, you are getting me into a lot of trouble here. I am closing this page pronto just in case my son is lurking closeby. Fried cheese is his all time fave when we go out(usually it is fried mozzarella) This one I have to try out just to make him happy. He will love you for sharing this recipe...

  17. Love it - "self-greasing cookies" :) I still haven't gotten around to posting the nutrient information on these, but because they're relatively small, the numbers for an individual penny aren't that bad (at least compared to other cookies) - like you said, the trick is using moderation! I based the calculations on 58 pennies, which is the number I got out of one batch. One penny has 40 calories and a little over 3 grams of fat.

  18. cheese pennies looks wonderfulllll nupur

  19. Oh!! these are a surprise!!! Super!!!
    Hehehe, most of us guessed some kinda vegetable!!!

  20. Hi Nupur, your contest was very ineresting. However I'm writing to thank you for your microwave Sabudana Khichadi recipe. I read that post a couple of days back and immediately tried it out. Needless to say, it turned out fantastic. And this was one dish I could never get right! Thanks again!

  21. I got that all wrong :( But this recipe cheers me up. I just saw cheesy bites in Sunita's World. Guess I should keep the tradition going ;).

  22. I missed the guessing game! But these cheese pennies look great.

  23. I won! That is unbelievable. Argh... You re right I live waaaaaay out there in a freezing Sweden (dont ask me why)...
    But I got your big hug and that warmed me up in a second. Thank you, muah :-)

  24. As I said earlier, I just cared for the recipe:) hehhe..looks great! thanks Nupur:)

  25. Linda, I have never really thought of freezing cheese...good to know that aged hard cheeses freeze well! I am pretty sure this dough would freeze well, just that it would need to be thawed a bit to be able to slice it. This is a great make-ahead recipe for gatherings.

    TWB, it is a favorite ingredient of the two boys (one human, one canine) that I live with too :)

    Taste of Mysore, well, not calories smalories exactly (I am not that much of a daredevil) but a few tasty crackers are definitely not going to do any harm!

    Namratha, somehow I thought it was too easy a guess. People went and thought of the most exotic things :D

    Vimmi, thank you so much for the feedback! I am so delighted that you enjoyed the recipes (and my babble!)

    Ramya, cheesy they definitely were!

    Namita, yes, the sinful and delicious stuff is our undoing :) They are delicious and worth a try for some special occasion.

    Easycrafts, thanks!

    Leila aunty, I was quite delighted that not many were able to guess it ;)

    Nags, yes, but they should have been called "cheese pounds" perhaps LOL girl, if you are on a diet, stop reading food blogs or you are in trouble!

    Lydia, you won't need to extract any promises...these will disappear like magic :) I'm glad I now know the freezing cheese trick!

    Anita, you have sabudana wadas on your mind, don't you?! :D Yup, they are decadent and very tasty.

    Padmaja, glad you like them!

    Rokh, gold! LOL, food beats precious metals any time in my home ;)

    Kamini, fried mozzarella. Wah :( I miss that stuff from our local pizzeria in NYC. The most guilty indulgence ever. Your cheese-loving son is going to love these for sure! Let me know if he does :)

    Cathy, I don't have the guts to look at nutrition info of things like cookies :D but what you say is making me feel a *lot* better! But these are worth every one of the calories.

    Sagari, thanks!

    Manasi, yup, these are the farthest thing from a vegetable :D

    Rajk, I am so glad it worked for you :) I appreciate the feedback very much!

    Suganya, ooh, I should go and see those cheesy bites. A bite of these pennies will cheer you up even more ;)

    Seema, glad you like them :)

    Zlamushka, you won! Smart girl you are :D Hope spring and warm weather arrives soon in Sweden!

    Mansi, hope you enjoy it!

  26. These cheese bites look so cute and i am itching to try this. Maybe later when I won't feel so guilty! :) Love the idea of adding some chilli powder for a kick. The bowl you have them in is beautiful.

  27. Aha! So these are cheese pennies, and am i thankful that they are :-D. Now send some over, you know, they are rich snacks and you shouldn't eat them alone ;).

    I'll try this with pepper jack and havarti and sharp cheddar, yummy!

  28. I also bought some cookie books and was looking up savoury recipes :-) Will make this one soon... simple readily available ingredients. Thanks

  29. ah me, fooled by the packaging!

    But seriously, if someone will give me a (cheese) penny for my thought, I think this one had better come with a claptrap cookie jar --- one which clamps on the manacles if you remove more than one (okay, two, maybe three). Else I know my family will soon be too fat for the front door!

    There's no way anyone's going to voluntarily stop at one of these pieces of deliciousness! (Actually, I'd have a tough time keeping my lot away from even the frozen dough, I suspect --- someone's already wants to see if it'll melt on bread in the microwave!)

  30. OMG! It was cheese!!!!Cdn't hv guessed anyways!! :D hey tks for leaving a comment on my blog! n visiting me too!! :)

  31. cool recipe!! will give it a try...happy new yr, dear.

  32. u know i could eat all of those in one sitting!

  33. wow...i never thot that cud be cheese...yummm!!!

  34. I will heed your wise words because I know I'd eat them all. Been there, done that (hanging head in shame).
    About your bread question: I haven't had any problems cutting yeast bread recipes in half. You might also want to shape the loaf and try freezing one before it's baked and then bake it several days later.

  35. Hi nupur
    I think , i missed this one, but next time i will be around for the contest.

  36. Laavanya, the bowl was a very sweet holiday gift from a friend. These are worth making for some special occasion!

    Musical, they are all gone...straight to my hips where they will stay forever :D
    You have got to try these!

    Raaga, yes, the short and simple ingredient list is what attracted me to this recipe!

    Rodosee, if there is a jar like that, I have got to buy it :) if you are the dough-eating types, yes, this dough would be irresistible as well!

    Purnima, yes, cheese it was :)

    Swaroopa, Happy New Year to you too!

    Jaden, you and me both!

    Superchef, yes, they do taste great :)

    Tanna, thank you so much...there are so many bread recipes that I look forward to trying. Halving them makes a lot of sense for our small family.

    Anamika, ok, we'll have to have another guessing game soon so you can participate! :)

  37. These look so good Nupur. Would love to try one of them.

  38. Perfect. Just the ideal savory treat.

    Thanks so much.

  39. can we do the step 2,3,4 in food processor with dough blade...i want to use my new fp for a sweet recipe!


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