One of the things (among many and not the least of which) you learn after you have children, is that the cocktail hour as you once knew it is now no longer. My husband I were married 5 years before having our first child. Five years to go meet up for happy hour drinks and little bites at the posh little bar down the street. Five years to spend as much time as we liked talking about our hellish days at the office. Five years to just relax with each other and enjoy being together after a long and stress filled day.
It was blissful. And while lovely and fun, I gladly gave it all up. Having kids was definitely a wake-up call for me. Frankly, I was a little bit too self absorbed. It was as if the blinders came off and I could see the world in this whole new way. All of the sudden the focus was now no longer on me, but on this gorgeous child and how the heck was I going to raise it to adulthood with any relative semblance of success? I had major doubts. And for some time there was no time for a happy hour break. There were no breaks. Period.
But as the months went by, the piles of laundry, dirty diapers and the mountains of baby paraphernalia grew and grew and grew, I began to long to feel a bit like the grown up I was before I had my son. The one who could just sit, and relax with her husband and enjoy a pretty drink and some delicious little bites. So, when we could, we would make a point of taking a little time together each week, at home to do just that. It's still my favorite time of the day, some 16 years and one additional child later.
The boys are older now, and we could easily go to happy hour every night if we wanted but outside of the occasional date and dinner out, we don't. I'm a bit of a do it your-selfer by nature anyway and I love the idea of having really good drinks and really good appetizers at home for a fraction of what it would cost me to have it out. So I hit the kitchen and devoured appetizer recipe after recipe. Out of all that manic cooking and creating my love of the cheese cracker was born.
Some people call them cheese straws, but whatever you call them they're dang delicious, easy to make and go amazingly well with a cocktail or two. My favorite, is the oldie but goodie, sharp cheddar with cayenne pepper cracker. Help me Jesus.. So, so good. Usually with cheese crackers, if you can think of a tasty combination, it's likely to be good. Blue cheese and pecan, Parmesan and thyme, and the aforementioned sharp cheddar and cayenne, crazy good.
Lately our favorite cracker is this brown cheese and caraway variety. I'm a huge fan of Norwegian Brown cheese (also known as Brunost) and shared about it and this recipe with you last year. Sweetly caramel and creamy, the cheese is fantastic on it's own, but I couldn't help think it would be amazing in a cracker, made with spelt flour and a sprinkling of caraway and sea salt.
Now it's all I can think about. It's really a perfect little bite. If you can't find Norwegian Brown Cheese you can easily substitute any other variety of cheese that you prefer. The caraway and spelt flour are used commonly in Nordic baking and cuisine so they seemed a natural addition.
Cheese + Caraway Crackers
1/2 C. cold unsalted butter, diced
1 1/4 C. spelt flour (you can substitute all purpose flour if you want)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. (about 1 cup) brown cheese
2 eggs, divided
1 T. milk
1-2 tsp. caraway seeds, slightly crushed
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cold butter, the flour and the salt. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. Add one of the eggs and the 1 T. milk to moisten the mixture and bring it together.
Process just until the ingredients form a ball.
Remove from the processor and place the mixture on a lightly floured cutting board. Sprinkle flour over the top (the mixture will be sticky) and roll gently into a long (about 10") log. Dust off the additional flour, if any and wrap in plastic wrap.
Place in the freezer for 20 or until the dough is firm, not frozen. You can alternatively refrigerate it for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice the dough into 1/4" rounds and place on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.
Lightly beat the remaining egg, and brush over each of the crackers. Sprinkle the caraway seeds on top and bake 15-20 minutes until the crackers are golden. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt if desired.
Remove from the oven, cool and devour with your favorite cocktail.