Stacey Ballis

What if the pimiento cheese... WERE the cracker?

Stacey Ballis
February 19, 2019

Every once in a blue moon an idea comes to you that you almost dismiss for being too easy to be right. You come THIS CLOSE to just ignoring your impulse, writing it off as folly, believing deep down that you are not smart enough to have that spark of genius in you. You might do a quick Google search, and one of two things happens. Either you discover that eleventy-million other people have already had the same said brilliant idea, and you are really late to the game.  Or, which in some ways is almost worse, you find nothing. In which case you begin to doubt yourself even more, assuming that at some point in history some person much wiser than you would surely have had this idea, and if there is no internet evidence thereof, then it probably won’t work.

I am here to give you hope and encouragement. If such a moment is to occur for you, as it recently did for me, I wholeheartedly suggest that as long as the pursuance of this idea causes no harm to self or others, does not risk financial security or psychological well-being, go forth ye of trepidatious entrepreneurialism, and at least attempt validation of your correctness.

Now, I know all this may seem like a really florid lead up to crackers, but in fairness, they are really good crackers. (Get the recipe: Pimiento Cheese Crackers.)

Let us go back in time to the era of BC, or Before Crackers.

Not before ALL crackers, mind you—crackers are a pretty ancient concept, and frankly a whole lot of my wandering ancestors would be a little miffed if I was attempting to take credit for a crisp piece of unleavened carbs, if you feel my meaning. But before The Crackers, as they have been come to be known in my house.

Before Crackers, I was a new-ish convert to cracker-making. After decades of being on-board with store-bought crackers, even something of a cracker hoarder, keeping no less than seven or so varieties stocked in the pantry in case of a last-minute cheese platter crisis, I found myself in a dilemma. I had adopted a sourdough starter and become a bread baker. But also, one of those people who suddenly starts making things that are readily available at your local convenience store for a reasonable price. Because, in the care and feeding of said starter, I was awash in starter discard. This glop of flour and water, enriched with wild yeasts and slightly fermented, having already bloomed and fallen, was no longer useful for rising a loaf, but was actually a pretty good ingredient for baking. All at once things like English Muffins and bagels were popping up in our breadbox next to the crusty loaves. Pancakes and scones, and even a really good experiment in fried chicken.

And crackers.

Stacey Ballis

Turns out, one of the easiest things to do with sourdough discard is make crackers. A little fat and flour added to the discard, maybe some seasoning or flavors, and a quick chill in the fridge and you have a dough that rolls out easily to wafer thinness and bakes up crisp and delicious.  And all at once you, and by you I mean me, have become a cracker baker. Not exclusively, I still love a buttery round or shredded waffle Triscuit, but many of the other crackers I used to buy, I now bake fresh and stash in my freezer instead of the pantry.

Now a few weeks ago, a lovely friend in the cheese business came over for a little get together with a donation of many, many cheeses. And in this bounty were two tubs of a very special item, Sweet Grass Dairy pimiento cheese spread. Now I, wife of a Southern Gentleman, have become a total convert to pimiento cheese, and will happily eat almost any variety, but this one is about the best I have ever had. Made with raw milk cheeses from the dairy, mixed with a proprietary blend of spices, anointed with just enough mayonnaise to bring it together without making it soupy, it is a cheese spread to change your life, and if you ever spot it in the wild, do not pass it by. We mowed through one tub, but in light of the rest of the cheesy riches, the second went untouched. And several days later I remembered it in the back of the cheese drawer.

Here is the approximate way my thinking went:

I have delicious pimiento cheese. I should eat that.

It will be best upon a cracker.

What type of cracker would be the superior vehicle for the cheese?

Sweet Fancy Moses, what if the cheese WERE THE CRACKER?????

(Duuuuuuude.)

After all, in my forays into cracker making I had discovered that many crackers are just fat and flour and seasonings. And I had made cheese crackers which were just fat and flour and seasonings and cheese. Well, pimiento cheese is cheese and fat and seasonings, so what would happen if I just added flour and baked it?

Magic, people, this is what happens, pure alchemical wizardry.

I didn’t even measure, not really, I dumped the tub of cheese spread into my mixer, filled the empty tub with a fairly equal amount of flour, and dropped that in, whirred it up into a dough, rolled the dough into a log and stashed it in the fridge. Figuring the dough was similar to a shortbread, which is pretty much just fat and flour, I thought baking from chilled would be best to prevent spreading.

Because I am fancy, I rolled the chilled log in white poppy seeds, sliced into discs, and baked till slightly golden on the edges, and browned on the bottom. And lemme tell you, these crackers were insanely delicious. They tasted like pimiento cheese and good pie crust had a really pretty baby. They had just enough spice to balance the cheesiness. The little pops of crunch on the outside were a bonus. And they were exactly the thing you would want to snack on with a cocktail. Which I did.

I thought it couldn’t be replicable, maybe it was the magic of the Sweet Grass spread, so I tried it again with a different store-bought version. But it worked just as well. So now that I had ascertained that the magic crackers are definitive, I knew I needed to share them with you.  Because if you only ever learn to make one cracker in your life, I’m hard pressed to imagine you would need anything other than The Crackers. And I hope that when that light bulb goes on over your head, that you have the faith in yourself to go for it. The world needs as much magic as we can get, especially when it is delicious. They are great on their own, obviously, but if you want to get all meta, make sandwich versions with more pimiento cheese in the middle and you have the culinary equivalent of crossing the streams, but in a good way.

RECIPE: Pimiento Cheese Crackers

 

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