These addictive crackers are great to have on hand during the holidays. They are a nice treat with a glass of wine or a cocktail, and or just as a savory snack. They have a full cheese flavor and a cayenne pepper kick that makes them very popular. I first saw this recipe in Gourmet magazine in 1998, and have made these wafers every year since then. The recipe is similar to one for cheese wafers in Marion Cunningham’s Fannie Farmer cookbook, but doubles the cayenne pepper and rolls smaller crackers. If you don’t like so much cayenne, you can cut back to make it more like the Fannie Farmer recipe. The size of the rolled log of dough determines the diameter of the wafer, and you can adjust that to your own preference. I like them small, about 1 inch in diameter. The dough is made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen– then when you want the crackers you just slice the rounds and bake for 10 minutes.
Pecan-cheese wafers, adapted from Jo’s Cheese Wafers, Gourmet, December 1998
½ cup pecans
1 stick (1/2 cup) + 1 ½ teaspoons unsalted butter
½ pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Parchment paper for lining baking sheets
Preheat oven to 350°.
Coarsely grate cheese into a large bowl. Cut the stick of butter into at least 8 pieces and add to the cheese. Let the cheese and butter soften to room temperature.
Put the pecans in on a cookie sheet or baking pan and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they are fragrant and beginning to change color. Transfer the hot nuts to a small bowl, and toss with 1 ½ teaspoons butter and salt to taste. Cool the nuts completely and chop them finely.
Add the finely chopped nuts to the bowl of cheese and butter along with the flour and cayenne. Beat with an electric mixer until it forms a dough. The cheese and butter should not be cold—if they are, warm briefly in a microwave (without melting), then mix with the other ingredients.
Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a log about 1 inch in diameter (or whatever size cracker you prefer), and wrap the logs in waxed paper and foil. Chill the logs of dough in the refrigerator at least 8 hours (up to one week). You can freeze the dough for up to two months.
About one log will fill a baking sheet. Make sure that the wafers are not too close together—they should be about ½ inch apart. Bake the wafers in the middle of the oven until pale golden and just firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Cool the wafers on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool.
Wafers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature at least 4 days. Each log of dough makes about 5 dozen wafers.