I love junk food. Like a lot. Like a lot of a lot. So, having certain foods in the house is simply a no for me. Even something that seems as harmless as goldfish crackers can prove disastrous when I’ve got the munchies. To prevent unnecessary binge eating, I just don’t buy snack crackers and this keeps me from devouring a whole package in a single sitting!
However, with a toddler in the house crackers are so handy! Not only do kiddos love crunchy snacks, but crackers are super convenient for moms, too. So, I set out to find a homemade, healthier version with less sodium and preservatives than store bought.
And guess what? I found it. Baby Girl LOVES these things. We often have to remind her that she only needs one in her mouth at a time, because she really will shovel them in.
I based this recipe off of the Homemade Goldfish Crackers found here. I adapted it to be more friendly for my baby by leaving out the salt and substituting 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the all purpose flour. I made it more mommy friendly by rolling out the dough into a full sheet and using a knife to cut out squares rather than cutting out cute shapes. (Although, when I’m channeling Martha Stewart, I do use some square serrated edge cookie cutters to make them look similar to Cheez-its.)
The original recipe is definitely delicious and I do recommend it if you are not focused on keeping a mostly whole grain diet. My whole grain recipe toasts up a little crispier – and Baby Girl likes both versions equally. Yay for having a health nut baby! (Although I did discover this week that she harbors a love for Sonic tator tots along with broccoli and tofu pudding…shhhhh…)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
3 TB cold butter – cubed
2 TB cold water
You don’t absolutely need a food processor for this recipe – but man, does it make it so much easier. An alternative is to use a pastry blender or a fork to mix your ingredients.
First, dump both kinds of flour into your food processor (or bowl, if you are using a pastry blender.) Then, on a low setting, add your butter a cube or two at a time. If you are using a pastry cutter, dump in all your butter at once and have at it! The flour and butter mixture should form thick crumbs.
Next, we add the cheeeeeeeeese! Here is where I personally add an extra step, as I shred my own cheese. I purchase blocks of cheddar because they are often cheaper than buying pre-shredded bags of cheese and because I try my best to avoid any unneccessary preservatives or chemicals in our diet. I certainly don’t worry about this 24/7 – like I said, I love junk food. But I do try to cut down in some areas so that the bulk of our diet is whole and clean foods. It is completely up to you as to whether you shred your own or use pre-shredded. It will not affect how these crackers come out.
Add the cheese little by little, blending just like you did with the butter. Your crumbs will begin to get thicker.
Now, we add water. Again, your crumbs will just seem to thicken a little and you may wonder what the hell is going wrong because you are out of ingredients and this looks nothing like crackers… It’s ok. We’re still on track. The dough doesn’t really form until you put a little elbow grease into it. So get your hands in there and press the crumbs together until a ball begins to form. Try not to over handle the dough as you want to keep the butter and cheese from warming up too much.
The whole wheat recipe tends to be a little crumblier than the original version, so you may need to add a little more water (very little, only a few drops) to get the dough to form. Divide your ball into two and chill for thirty minutes.
Preheat your oven to 374°F. Yes, 374°. I have tried this recipe at 375°, thinking that the one little degree difference wouldn’t matter if I cooked them for a shorter time – but my crackers came out far too hard for Baby Girl to chew and some were even burnt. Go figure.
Pull one of your dough balls from the fridge and press it flat with the heel of your hand. Then, roll it flat with a rolling pin. It may take a minute or two to warm up. You will want to roll it as thin as possible. The dough will be a little dry, so just press together any tears and keep rolling.
Now comes the fun part. You can use a cookie cutter to cut out whatever shapes you like. I recommend keeping things small – no bigger than 1″. A quicker method is to take a butter knife and cut long strips horizontally and vertically to make 1″ squares and fast work. This is absolutely my preferred method as I am usually making these at about 8:00 at night while washing diapers, making lunch for the next day, and hoping Baby Girl’s bedtime sticks…
Next, poke holes in the middle of all of those tiny squares. I’m not doing this to punish you, I swear. This is necessary for our crackers to vent steam and prevent them from bubbling – just like pie dough. Now you know why Cheez-its have belly buttons.
Throw your crackers onto some parchment paper on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 15-17 minutes depending on your oven. My crackers are usually perfect at 15 minutes, but it may take some trial and error to get these just right. A little too long and they will be crispy – a little under and they will be biscuity. Both ways are yummy, but depending on how well your little one chews you might find they prefer one over the other. Or big one, for that matter…my husband likes these, too.
Once I have the first batch in the oven, I take out my second dough ball and begin rolling out the second set of crackers. By the time the timer dings, they are ready to go right in. And just to warn you – your house will smell like macaroni and cheese. Mmmmm…
These have become a staple in Baby Girl’s menu. It does take time and effort to make these for her rather than simply reaching for a box – which is all too tempting to do and I won’t deny that we use Ritz as a treat – but I am always so proud and pleased when she tries to eat three at a time. It always makes me more mindful of grabbing a handful. I desperately want her to grow up having a healthy relationship with food. I want to instill within her the idea that homemade foods are normal and special; that good food is not always fast food.
And I want her to miss my home cooking if she ever dares leave me and declare that she’d rather have my cheesy crackers over store bought any day.