Thanksgiving is gone and so far, no more than a few snow flakes here in Chicago. It seems everything is going slowly but the time. I remember last year we were surrounded by a big eagerness as we were packing to go to Brazil, spend the Holidays at “home”; and because of that, November felt like the last month of 2010. But now, it’s taking a big effort for me to get into that mood again.
Ornaments, decorations and Christmas songs are hard to ignore though, they surely make you feel the end of the year is around the corner. And then there is all this talk about parties and plans for the season, where we are going, how we are going to celebrate and who will be with us.
Hopefully, December will make me fasten my pace. If you are feeling like me, if you are a step behind, here are two multipurpose recipes that certainly will help you to catch up: cute, salty, flakey handmade crackers and grissinis.
First, they can be a perfect handmade Christmas gift, especially for those who need a break from sweet cookies. Second, both are good treats to be taken to the office Christmas party and show your skills off to that super-confident-and-not-so-loved colleague; they really, really make people think you’ve done real work when you really haven’t. Tell me, isn’t it everything you were looking for??
The first recipe, the cheese crackers, comes from here, you can even watch Mark Bittman’s video. I love his recipes and don’t have nothing to add about this one, I followed each step straightly and the result was absolutely fabulous.
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit; continue to add liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky.
2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/2-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. Transfer sheet of dough to prepared baking sheet (drape it over rolling pin to make it easier). Score lightly with a sharp knife, pizza cutter or a pastry wheel if you want to break crackers into squares or rectangles later on. Sprinkle with salt or other topping if you like.
3. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store in a tin for a few days.
Yield: About 4 servings.
Grissini, oh grissini; I’ve been looking for a good recipe for a long time and finally found one my oven can handle. Why such obsession? I just think when handcrafted, they make the most beautiful and clean edible ornament.
But most of the time I would end with a chewy texture instead of crisp and crunchy grissini. This recipe instead, an adaptation of the book Baking and Pastry: mastering the art and craft, put me on the place I wanted to be.
Combine flour and yeast. In a mixer bowl, combine beer, butter, olive oil, salt, molasses or honey. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed with the hook attachment for 4 minutes and on medium speed for 3 minutes. The dough should be very stiff. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
Shape into a ball and let the dough raise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.
Line sheet pans with parchment paper.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle 12 inch long and ¼ inch thick. Trim the edges if needed.
Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut the dough lengthwise into strips ¼ wide. Lay the strips crosswise on the parchment–lined sheet pans, making sure they do not touch. Brush the strips lightly with olive oil.
Cover and let it rise slightly, about 30 minutes. Bake in a 360˚F until the grissinis are golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool completely on racks.
Oh, just one more thing: be creative. You can give your own touch to this recipes by adding different spices, garlic, or even another type of cheese.