Cheese Thins Recipe

Cheese Thins

When it comes to appetizers, I generally try to offer relatively light preparations, and often opt for vegetable-based dips* that can be scooped with raw zucchini sticks or dolloped onto cucumber rounds : if I’m serving something before dinner, when my guests are, all things considered, starving, the idea is to sate them temporarily, not until next week.

On the other hand, if I’m hosting an apéro dînatoire, a casual night of drinks and nibbles, possibly punctuated by a SingStar showdown, then it seems reasonable, and even desirable, to include a few really satisfying items. It is on such an occasion that I made these cheese thins, which could be thought of as the cheese course of the evening.

They’re a take on the cheese straws I saw on Deb’s Smitten Kitchen, which she herself had drawn from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. Cheese straws sound fun to eat, unquestionably, and I hope someone makes them for me one day, but I am more of a slice-and-bake person myself, so that’s the technique I opted for, effortlessly producing half-moon crackers (I made a fat log then halved it) that garnered unveiled enthusiasm from the assembly.

Not that it surprised me much: these could be described as crisp rounds of cheese shortbread, buttery and cheesy, thin enough to crumble promptly on your tongue, and dangerously good. And because the slices aren’t all the same thickness (unless you’re a robot with a knife attachment), you get varying shades of golden, which is ideal because each degree of baking results in a slightly different flavor and texture.

Although I haven’t tried it yet, I am fairly sure the dough can be frozen, so that you could keep a log on hand and woo impromptu guests with your magic cheese cracker powers.

* Such as: the Radish Leaf Pesto, the Peacamole, the Roasted Eggplant and Goat’s Milk Yogurt Dip, the Muhammara, the Strawberry Basil Pesto, etc.

Cheese Thins

- 170 grams (6 ounces) quality hard cheese, finely grated (I used 24-months-old comté cheese, but you could use extra-sharp cheddar, as in the original recipe, or pecorino)
- 55 grams (4 tablespoons) butter (I use semi-salted), diced and softened
- 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces, about 3/4 cup) flour
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/4 teaspoon ground smoked paprika, preferably the spicy kind, plus more for sprinkling (substitute ground chili pepper)
- a dash milk or cream, as needed (see below)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt, and smoked paprika. Using a dough blender or bench/bowl scraper, mix these ingredients together until they form a dough. If the mixture seems too dry and crumbly to come together into a ball — this will depend on the cheese you used — add a dash of milk or cream until it does (I didn’t need to). The mixing can also be done in a blender, food processor or stand mixer.

Shape the dough into a log or whatever sliceable shape strikes your fancy, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm enough to be easily sliced, about an hour, and up to a day. (You can speed things up by placing the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes instead.)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge, slice it thinly — about 2 mm or 1/12 inch — and arrange the slices on the prepared sheet (they will expand a little, so give them just a bit of elbow room). You will need to work in batches; return the dough to the fridge between batches.

Sprinkle lightly with salt and chili pepper and bake for 10 to 14 minutes, depending on your oven and the thickness of your slices, until golden. Let the cheese thins rest on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring them to a cooling rack. Taste when cool, and adjust the baking time accordingly for subsequent batches.

Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen.

Cooking/baking time: 14 min

  • http://ncsuemme.blogspot.com Emily

    These look so yummy! Not until a few of you great cooking bloggers started making and posting cracker recipes did I ever think to make crackers at home. I quite love that these are cut and bake instead of being rolled out like a lot of cracker recipes I’ve seen.

  • jane

    I have a recipe very similar to this in which you wrap the cheese biscuit dough around a whole dried date. The sweet & spicy combo are delicious!

  • http://lesauce.typepad.com yasmin

    another totally simple BAKING recipe that even I would attempt–you’ve eliminated the need to roll the dough out. genius. i think i’m actually going to try these!

  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    These look really delicious. What a great straightforward recipe, just the kind we all need there isn’t any mucking about before your guests arrive. I think I’ll make these for mine this weekend!

  • http://www.mingcyn.blogspot.com cyn

    mmm i would love to sink my teeth into some of these now! :)

  • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

    This yummy, enticing recipe, which I will try, by the way, reminds me of a few cheese quotes:

    “Age is not important, unless you are a cheese.”
    (Helen Hayes, American actress 1900-1993)

    “How can you expect to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?”
    (Charles de Gaulle)

    “But I, when I undress me Each night upon my knees Will ask the Lord to bless me, With apple pie and cheese”
    (Eugene Field, the American “poet of childhood” 1850-95)

    “Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.”
    (Clifton Fadiman, American author, editor, and radio host. 1904-1999)

    “For centuries, people thought the moon was made of green cheese. Then the astronauts found that the moon is really a big hard rock. That’s what happens to cheese when you leave it out.”
    (Anon.)

  • http://www.american-in-france.com Cynthia in the French Alps

    I just printed this recipe out and will try it at the next dinner party with my husband’s French friends and hope it works for the cheese course. So many French seem to be pretty stuck on their food traditions that I’m always afraid to try something new. Cynthia

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    All – It is such a simple recipe indeed. Great effort-to-effect ratio!

    Jane – What a great combo idea!

    Cynthia – I should clarify that I don’t mean to suggest these could be served as the cheese course during a sit-down dinner. I meant that, if you’re serving an assortment of appetizer nibbles over the course of an evening (= apéro dînatoire), these could sort of be the equivalent of a cheese course.

    Gwendolyn – Love the cheesy quotes! :)

  • http://mollycookie.com MollyCookie

    These look great, the perfect addition to a dinner party. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  • http://www.thenaptimechef.com Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef

    I love the look of these crackers. I usually make parmesan cheese crackers at home and hope to make these now, too!

  • http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com Kitchen Butterfly

    Fantastic…would be great with a sprinkling of curry powder or some dry mustard…or even a bit of wholegrain mustard. What do you think?

  • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

    Cheesy quotes indeed! Haha.

  • http://www.sewwest.blogspot.com/ Nancy (nanflan)

    These are very similar to a recipe I first made when I lived in Mobile, Alabama. The recipe came from a local book put together by the Jr. League (women’s charitable group).

    If you have a cookie press, they are great made that way. But slice and bake is so simple, and you can make them as needed.

  • amelia

    I have just recently discovered your blog clotilde (I know, where have I been?) and I am in love!! I love your recipes and your blog entries are captivating and insightful. I too am a passionate cook and I am looking into starting my own blog, you are an inspiration!! Keep up the good work!

  • http://moretimeatthetable.blogspot.com Alyce Morgan

    I have a similar recipe and it’s perfect with homemade tomato soup, which could be cold at this time of the year.

  • Joan

    cheese shortbread PLUS Clotilde & Co PLUS Singstar ~ what an image :-) These biscuits look tempting!

  • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com BigGirlPhoebz

    you and heidi are really on the same page today! thank you for the wonderful recipe. I can picture these thins as they melt my mouth. Until then…

    Cheers!

  • Carole

    Very like my Irish mom’s cheese straw recipe that she cribbed from her mother-in-law (my French great grandmother). She made long skinny crackers and twisted the dough a bit.

    She also wrapped green martini olives in this dough and baked them. To die, it was. My addition to this family tradition was to pour out the olive brine from its jar and replace the stuff with vodka for a week before making the appetizer. To die, and to get a tidy hangover if you are too enthusiastic an eater as well..

  • http://www.pleasurenotes.com emma

    Normally, I’m fine with being lactose intolerant and allergic to dairy (yes, both), but now I want to cry.

  • http://www.moveablefeastscookbook.blogspot.com Barbara

    These are super. I love cheesy, crispy things for an appetizer.

  • http://www.comingtomyseineses.wordpress.com Francaphile

    Sigh, Im new to your blog and your Paris sounds far more elegant then mine, which involves weekly trips to the local Carrefour for readymade meals for one. Can you direct me to any posts which have quick and simple recipies for one?

    F

  • http://eatingfromthegroundup.blogspot.com Alana

    Oh, I’ve been struggling over deciding what to serve for an arrival nosh for a dinner party this weekend, and you have put an end to the struggles. Thank you!

  • jackie

    I am always looking for a new recipe. I can’t wait to try it. We have a lot of family function so I will be making this recipe.

    Thanks for your post.

  • http://miss-matzenbatzen.blogspot.com/ Steffi

    I’m making them right now – with cheddar – and I can barely hold myself back from eating the unbaked dough, it is already so delicious!

  • Liz

    Speaking of Heidi, maybe run this dough through the pasta machine to make it into even sheets, then cut into triangles, like she does for her olive oil crackers? Because of stretching there’s still some disparity in thickness (and therefore doneness). Might change the texture a bit, though.

  • http://allforall.40host.com/hallowee3b/index.html Hallowen

    mmmm…nyam nyam…
    Cheers!

  • Anna

    These look like the kinds of nibbles that should ONLY be made when guests are around….if I made them otherwise I’m sure i’d scoff the lot in one sitting! Dangerous, indeed!

  • http://www.mightyleaf.com Bliss Dake

    These look tasty. My kids will love these. These will be perfect for a tea party.

  • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com small kitch cara

    Love those! I remember my French host family used to keep a box of cheese crackers in the living room for having drinks with guests.

    I had a great time trying my hand at savory cookies, recently.

  • http://www.cookingandeatinginthewindycity.blogspot.com Erin

    I keep thinking I need to host a wine and appetizer type party, and these would be a perfect part of that type of menu! They look rich and addictive!

  • http://www.kimberlybelle.com Kimberly Belle

    Well, I do like cheese, even if my recipes sometimes go awry – so these Cheese Thins may just grace my guests’ lips in the near future. I have two favorite things about this recipe! For one, the fact that each batch will be slightly different in flavor and texture because I do not, alas, come with a knife attachment. Secondly, I get to pick my cheeses depending on my mood. And for a cheese fanatic, that’s pretty exciting.

    Cheers,
    Kimberly Belle
    http://www.kimberlybelle.com
    http://www.dinnerbellenyc.com

  • http://www.georgiapellegrini.com Georgia

    I never thought I was a good baker… but then I went to France and cooked in a kitchen with a baker and made lots of foccacia and other delightful things for quite a few months. So now I’m confident! In fact I just made this lovely little bundt cakes: http://www.georgiapellegrini.com/blog/

  • http://www.passportfoodie.com Taylor Young

    Now that is something even I can make.

    Very nice, thank you!

  • http://www.mixingbowlkids.ca Mixing Bowl Mama

    Honestly, every time I come here there is just THE recipe that I need. Thank you for this…delicious and easy…the perfect combo.

  • http://thebeaniezoneblog.blogspot.com/ Christina

    I love all of the recipes I’ve seen on your blog. To show my appreciation I’ve given you an award on my blog!

    Thanks for all the yummies Clotilde!

  • http://www.spicedish.typepad.com EB

    I’m in the process of planning a cocktail party menu right now! These have been bumped to the top of the list.

  • http://www.beckyknowseverything.blogspot.com Becky

    These look absolutely fantastic. What a wonderful idea. I am going to try them out on some guests next weekend

  • http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com Kalyn

    These really sound delicious. I’m going to try it with white whole wheat flour; can’t think of any reason it wouldn’t work.

  • http://www.SimplySugarAndGlutenFree.com Amy Green – Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free

    I love reading through everyone’s variations. Fall is approaching in the states and these little gems would be great for Thanksgiving appetizers, too. Or even with soup at lunch.

    Your very specific tips are very helpful – such as “add cream if you need it.” So often these are left out of recipes and this is what I need to know my first time making them. Thanks!

  • http://fayefood.com faye

    I love the idea of not having to roll out the dough; another cracker originating from a Southern Recipe is to make your favorite biscuits, and just roll the dough nearly flat. Give it an egg wash and then sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or grated parmesan or gruyere. Then slice the dough into irregular shapes and bake at 400 degrees on a parchment lined sheet (jelly roll) pan.

  • http://mayaskitchenonline.blogspot.com/ Maya@Maya’s Kitchen

    These look lovely. I have a similar recipe that uses cheddar and parmesan. These are great to nibble on with drinks!

  • http://mabelshouse.blogspot.com/ Liz

    I am a huge fan of your book, but just stumbled onto your blog today! I’m looking forward to following it.
    Hugs,
    Liz

  • Marcia

    Cheese straws are an old Southern favorite. Use a pizza cutter to cut them into long stripes or use a cookie press. Cheese pennies are what we call the round ones here in Atlanta.

    A 50s appetizer: take that same dough and wrap a large drained olive in it and bake! Can be made and frozen, then baked. This recipe is in an old edition of the Williamsburg (Virginia) cookbook.

  • nancy

    The first time I made cheese straws, as we call them in the south, I left out the flour! The dough does freeze well, especially when made with the flour!

  • http://veggietestdrive.blogspot.com/ Christine

    Anything with cheese is normally a go, but crispy + cheese. . . Fabulous! I’m excited to try these.

  • Victoria

    How many does the recipe make? I’m thinking of making these as part of the snacks at a cocktail party, and wasn’t sure if I should double the recipe

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Victoria – It depends on the thickness and size of your slices, of course, but I think I got about 60 half-moons myself.

  • http://pithyandcleaver.com maggie

    These look fabulous! I think I’ll make them for a party we’re having next week.

  • Suzie

    Here in the South, no wedding reception is complete without cheese straws. Same recipe, just piped onto the baking pan — super crunchy and delish.

  • Sara

    Hi Clotilde, I’m a long time reader but a first-time poster! I’m now baking the second batch of these delicious crackers: they really are amazing – the taste and the crispiness are wonderful. Since I went with pecorino instead of Comtè – which I love but is not readily available in Italy – I do suggest to stay a little short on the salt!

  • http://www.decodecarhire.co.uk/car-hire/greece/santorini-island.html Jasy

    These look so tasty. I have cooked something similar without paprika. I will try this recipe. Maybe it will be better than mine.

  • http://www.screamingforchocolate.com Coco

    I have been wanting some of these since before the holidays but didn’t ever get around to making them. I want it. I don’t need it but I want it.

    Love the name of your blog. Two of my favorite things…chocolate and zucchini. Not together of course. I saw you on Bon Appetit with your monthly calendar.

  • carole

    Bonjour Clotilde, je lis cette wish list avec plein d’étoiles dans les yeux et j’ai hâte que vous nous transmettiez vos découvertes et autres délicieuses recettes!

  • http://www.bloomingteasite.com Vie@ loose green tea

    Your cracker looks really delicious, something that I’ve never had or done before, this recipe will definitely go to my list of to dos this weekend. Thanks for having the recipe here. Have a great day!

  • http://www.streamingchurchesonline.com/ Tony W

    Thanks for the recipe…This looks pretty easy to make….how many cheese thins do you get from this batch?

    Thanks

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      It really depends on the size of the logs you make, but it yields a fair amount — maybe around sixty or so.

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