In New England Open-House Cookbook, author Sarah Leah Chase presents a wide-ranging cookbook for everyone who has skied the mountains of Vermont, sailed off the coast of Maine, dug for clams on the Cape, or just wishes they had. The book reflects the bountiful ingredients and recipes of New England – including a wealth of shellfish soups and stews, a full chapter celebrating lobster, 26 perfect picnic dishes, and luscious desserts – served up in evocative prose, gorgeous full-color photographs and more than 300 delicious recipes. This particular recipe for Cheddar Cheese Wafers from the “Harbingers” chapter brings back the idea of a classic cheese-based hors d’oeuvre.
Cheddar Cheese Wafer Recipe
While cheese wafers, cheese straws, and cheese balls may seem like an hors d’oeuvre genre from our parents’ or even grandparents’ era, I believe the ever-growing abundance of top-notch artisanal cheeses throughout New England cries out for a revival of such cheese-anchored treats. Cabot Creamery’s Clothbound Cheddar epitomizes la crème de la crème of success in the artisanal cheese movement and immediately elevates the typical cheese wafer from a tasty nibble to an extraordinary one.
The basic cheese wafer is usually a simple combination of butter, flour, freshly grated cheese, and sometimes a hint of cayenne pepper for heat. While toasted pecans are a frequent and excellent addition, I have grown fond of using finely chopped smoked almonds in my Clothbound Cheddar Cheese Wafers and then further accenting this subtle smokiness with ground chipotle pepper powder instead of cayenne pepper. The wafers are always a welcome and fast-disappearing accompaniment at the cocktail hour and pair particularly well with cider, regular or sparkling. Makes about 4 dozen.
• 1/2 cup smoked almonds, such as Blue Diamond Smokehouse almonds
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
• 6 ounces Cabot Clothbound Cheddar cheese, shredded
• 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (adjust the amount to suit your preference for heat)
1. Place the smoked almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped but not ground.
2. Combine the butter, cheddar, and finely chopped almonds in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a medium-size mixing bowl. Beat to blend, using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer or a hand-held mixer. Add the flour and chipotle pepper and continue beating until the mixture comes together to form a stiff dough. Shape the dough into a 1-inch-diameter log, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate the log for at least 4 hours. The log may be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months if you are a do-ahead type. If frozen, thaw the log in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
3. When ready to bake, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Unwrap the chilled log and, using a sharp knife, cut it crosswise into slices about 1/8 inch thick. Arrange the slices in rows 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the wafers until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the wafers cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets and then, using a metal spatula, carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve the clothbound cheddar wafers arranged on a pretty platter or tucked in a shallow basket. Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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Reprinted with permission from New England Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase and published by Workman Publishing, 2015.