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
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
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.