As I’m sure you all know, one of the most popular foods to pair with wine is…cheese. We decided to take this lauded and age old pairing to the lowest (or highest?) common demoninator by pairing a nice French wine (and an ale of course) with homemade Cheez-itz. How did it take us this long to make this natural pairing progression?
Yes, as you can see we’re back to indulging our obsession with making homemade versions of store-bought items. Get used to it because we have a lot more coming!
Cheez-itz are one of those snack foods that fell solidly into the junk food category when I was growing up. And I can see why…there are several ingredients that I can’t really pronounce and look more like chemicals than foods. When you make these crackers at home, however, the ingredient list is all natural and surprisingly short. The only unusual ingredient is annato seed, an optional item added only to give the cheez-itz their unnatural but oh-so appetizing orange color.
Homemade cheez-itz have none of the cardboard-y flavor of the packaged original and instead have the bite of real sharp cheddar cheese combined with a crunchy texture and buttery undertones. Yes, I did just use the word undertones to describe a cheez-it. Try making this super simple cracker and you’ll understand why!
Merlot and cheddar…how can you really go wrong? This Merlot was awesome with the Cheez-its…mostly as a fruity contrast to the savory bites. It has a bright, luscious, juicy flavor with earthy scents of vanilla and black pepper. The dominant flavors are black cherry and raspberry and the texture is smooth…the wine is only mildly acidic. I also thought this wine was a great value! It was only $9 but tasted much more “classy!” Good pairing!
This beer was an excellent pairing! I’m not typically a fan of the nuttiness and maltiness of Brown Ales but in this case I was stuffing cheez-its in my mouth and happily chugging Brooklyn’s Brown Ale to quench my thirst. The slight nutiness and toasty caramel malts actually balanced really well with the cheddar, salt, and pepper from our homemade cheez-its and made it wash down really easily!
Based on this recipe.
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 tablespoon annatto seeds, coarsely ground*
1 1/2 cups finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
*NOTE: The annatto seeds are just to get the classic orange color and are not required!
1. Combine water and annatto seeds. Let steep for 5 minutes. Strain and discard seeds. Put annatto seed water in ice bath until cool.
2. 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. (we found that the amounts of water and seeds listed above made just barely the two tablespoons required.)
3. Transfer dough to floured counter and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
4. 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.
5. Using the blunt end of a skewer, poke a hole in the center of each square.
6. Transfer to baking sheets. Sprinkle with remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bake until light golden around edges, about 14 minutes (keep an eye on your cheez-its! The original recipe calls for 18 minutes but ours were done at around 14 or 15 minutes). Switch and rotate the sheets halfway through baking. Let cool completely on baking sheets.