Cheez-Its: Better Than the Real Thing?
By America s Test Kitchen
Easy and fun, homemade Cheez-Its take the junk out of junk food. Enjoy this step-by step guide and DIY recipe.
RELATED: Check out 100+ recipes like this in our DIY Cookbook, from sour dill pickles to homemade bacon. What will you make next?
I can pretty easily
refuse most salty snacks. Chips? Who needs 'em. Fries? Can't be
bothered. Pretzels? They just make me thirsty. But when it comes to
Cheez-Its, I am defenseless. As an avid label reader, I should refuse
to eat them, because the ingredients list alone (thiamine
mononitrate, anyone?) should be enough to scare me away. And while I
refuse to buy them myself, if someone puts a box of Cheez-Its in
front of me, I will devour its contents before you could ask "What
exactly is TBHQ?" or "If oleoresin is used for color, what
color is it?"
But lately, my guilt about the ingredients has been getting the best of me. I can't justify chowing down on something made of things which I mostly can't pronounce or even buy at the grocery store. Since I love to bake, I figured I'd see if I could make my own, and it turned out that coming up with a recipe for these little crackers wasn't too difficult, and it was actually pretty fun, too. My favorite part? The orange color that the annatto seeds dyed the baked snacks. Give it a try, and I bet you'll never go back to the store-bought, junk-filled version of these cheesy crackers again. --Carolynn Purpura MacKay, test cook
STEP #1: STRAIN AND COOL IT
Mix the crushed annatto seeds with hot water and let them steep for 5 minutes. The finer the seeds are ground, the more orange in color the crackers will be. Strain and discard the seeds and place the liquid in an ice bath until cool.
STEP #2: MIX IT
Mix the cheese, butter, salt, and pepper in the mixer with a paddle.
STEP #3: MONITOR IT
Stop mixing when it starts to stick to the sides of the bowl.
STEP #4: ADD IT
Add the flour and cornstarch.
STEP #5: MIX IT AGAIN
Mix until it is combined and looks like wet sand.
STEP #6: COLOR IT
Add two tablespoons of annatto seed soaked water.
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STEP #7: FORM IT
Mix it until a dough ball forms (you might need to use an additional tablespoon of water if the dough seems dry).
STEP #8: CHILL IT
Transfer the dough to the counter, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
STEP #9: FLOUR IT
Flour the counter and the dough.
STEP #10: ROLL IT
Roll the dough to 1/16 of an inch. Try to keep it in a rectangular shape if you can.
STEP #11: CUT IT
Cut the dough into 1-inch squares using a beveled-edge ravioli cutter (if you don't have one you can also use a pizza cutter or a knife).
STEP #12: TRANSFER IT
Transfer the individual cheese squares to parchment-lined sheet pans.
STEP #13: POKE IT
Using the blunt end of a skewer, poke a hole in the center of each square.
STEP #14: SPRINKLE IT
Sprinkle the squares with salt.
STEP #15: BAKE IT
Bake the squares at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes.
STEP #16: COOL IT
Be patient and let the crackers cool completely. Dig in and enjoy!
RECIPE: HOMEMADE CHEESE SNACK CRACKERS
Easy to make and stripped of their weird ingredients, these homemade versions of Cheez-Its are sure to be a crunchy, cheesy hit.
WHY THIS RECIPE
The ingredients list on a box of snack crackers from the store has a litany of items that are unidentifiable and hard to pronounce. This recipe makes wholesome crackers that taste even better than their store-bought counterparts. For ridged edges, use a ravioli cutter (but a knife or pizza cutter will also work).
Makes about 1 quart
The annatto seeds are merely for color and can be omitted.
1 tablespoon annatto seeds (optional), coarsely ground
6 ounces (1½ cups) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (3¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1. Combine water and
annatto seeds. Let steep for 5 minutes. Strain and discard seeds. Put
annatto seed water in ice bath until cool. Using stand mixer fitted
with a paddle, combine cheese, butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper
until combined and starting to stick to sides of mixing bowl, about
30 seconds. Add flour and cornstarch and mix until combined, about 1
minute. Add 2 tablespoons of annatto seed water and mix until dough
ball forms, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 1 tablespoon water if
needed. Transfer dough to floured counter and flatten into a disk.
Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
2. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap dough onto well floured counter and roll to 1/16 inch thickness. Cut into 1-inch squares using beveled-edge ravioli cutter. Using the blunt end of a skewer, poke a hole in the center of each square. Transfer to baking sheets. Sprinkle with remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bake until light golden around edges, about 18 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cool completely on baking sheets. (Crackers can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days).