I think it’s a widely agreed-upon fact that the typical “office-job” environment fosters terrible eating habits. The four years I spent working in an office could serve as a prime example of how someone should not treat their body. At my craziest, I was working between 50–60 hours a week, and allowing no time in my morning routine to eat breakfast or pack lunch. By 7:00 a.m., I’d be at my desk, mainlining coffee and grumbling out responses to emails as I typed them. Around 10:00 a.m., I’d take a break to chat with coworkers and devour an ungodly amount of cheese and crackers. (My department was never without several boxes of crackers and a block of cheese—a modus operandi I still live by, but practice on a slightly more subdued scale.) At least once a week, we’d take a trip to Panera for lunch and I’d justify buying a loaf of tomato basil bread to “take home,” which would then turn into a half hallowed-out bread shell before the day was done. And since I’d be working at least an hour or two late, 3:00 p.m. meant diet Coke and snack time. And any snack machine pro knows it’s worth it to spend the extra quarter on the Cheez-Its, because those 20%-snack/80%-air bags of chips and popcorn are for suckers.
Since I began working from home, my eating habits have improved dramatically. (Though I still shove cheese and crackers in my face on a regular basis.) And while the life of a telecommuter comes with its own set of questionable behavior (i.e., living in pajamas and not showering until noon . . . or 5:00 p.m.), it’s a drastic improvement from my office life. And I was perfectly happy with my bowls of cereal and salad wraps until a couple months ago, when Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen decided to post a recipe for Homemade Black Pepper Cheez-Its. So you’re telling me I can make a ton of cheez-its, using far-better ingredients, and put whatever I want in them? To the kitchen I go!
I held onto this post for a little while because I was actually considering remaking/rephotographing these for a few reasons. First, I’d already thrown the majority of the ingredients into my food processor when I realized the only flour I had in the house was whole wheat. I was disappointed by the unintentional healthy turn my cheez-its had taken—they still tasted pretty great, but definitely had that tell-tale, whole-wheaty color to them. Second, I would really like to make these using a cheddar or gouda that contains annatto, to get them closer to that blinding shade of orange. But I thought about it and realized that they were pretty great the first time around, and half the fun of making these yourself is customizing them however you want. So go ahead and experiment!
(adapted from A Cozy Kitchen)
- ½ cup of sharp cheddar, grated
- ½ cup of parmesan, grated
- ½ cup of jarlsberg, grated (if you don’t have access to jarlsberg, any mild-but-yummy cheese—young gouda, emmenthal, etc.—will work as a substitute)
- 4 tbsp (½ stick) butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
- ¾ cup of flour
- 1½ tsp freshly-ground pepper
- ½ tsp kosher salt for dough, plus another 1 tsp for topping
- 1 tbsp half-and-half
Preheat your oven to 350°.
Combine cheese, butter, flour, pepper, and ½ tsp of salt in a food processor. Cover and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough comes together.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface. (My dough was a bit sticky, and might have benefited from a little bit of time in the fridge, but I didn’t feel like waiting.) Carefully roll out dough into a 13″ x 7″ rectangle 1/16″ thick. Keep an eye on your dough as you roll it out to make sure it isn’t sticking to the rolling pin, and re-flour the pin if necessary.
Cut the dough into 1-inch squares using a knife or pasta wheel. Poke a hole in the center of each square using the flat end of a skewer, or whatever else you have handy.
Carefully transfer each square to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp of salt.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the ends of the crackers just begin to brown. Let them cool for a few minutes, then snack away!