My birthday was last week, and I was excited to have many wonderful friends come over to my place to celebrate with me. I was talked out of making my own birthday cake (which I did last year!), but I really wanted to prepare some tasty nibbles for people to snack on while they were over.
I brainstormed for a couple of days and decided to prepare the following:
- Homemade crackers, served with a cheese plate and homemade tapenade
- Phyllo triangles with apple, pear, thyme, creme fraiche, and bourbon filling
- Polenta rounds topped with homemade pesto, mozzarella, and roasted grape tomatoes
(No chance to photograph the phyllo and polenta! My lovely guests were distracting me!)
Additionally, one of my friends brought over a "signature" cocktail for the evening which included blended mangoes, mint, lime seltzer, lime juice and spiced rum, which was a HUGE hit (I'll try to get a recipe from her at some point...), another brought over super-decadent brownies, and yet another brought a container of homemade cookies-and-cream ice cream!
Nearly all of the food was consumed, and one of the biggest hits of the evening was the homemade crackers, which were devoured by the time the party ended. They're dead-simple to make, and well-worth the small amount of effort needed - especially considering how expensive store-bought gourmet crackers can be! Feel free to use any of your favorite herbs, flavorings, oils, etc. From what I can tell, this method is pretty much fool-proof...
I made two versions for the party. The basic recipe is courtesy of Mark Bittman, and can be found in How to Cook Everything.
Version 1: Sesame-Olive Oil Crackers
1 c AP flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 c water
Sesame seeds, to top crackers (I used a mix of black and "regular" seeds, roasted)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add flour, salt, and olive oil to food processor, and combine. Keep machine running and stream in water until dough JUST forms a ball. Turn the dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface (the dough should be soft, but not too sticky).
Using a rolling pin, roll dough out to around 1/4 inch thick, depending on your preference (thicker crackers will be a little less crisp). Carefully transfer the flattened dough to a baking sheet (Bittman also suggests using a baking stone, but I don't own one... yet!) Brush the dough lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for between 15-20 minutes, until the dough has browned. Allow to cool and break into pieces (Note: Bittman suggests scoring the dough with a fork if you want to separate it into rectangles or any specific shape... I wanted to go for a rustic look, though, so I just broke it up with my hands).
Version 2: Parmesan-Sage Cream Crackers
1 c AP flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp butter
1/3 to 1/2 c heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
3/4 c fresh grated parmesan
pinch fresh grated black pepper
Follow the same instructions as above, substituting butter for olive oil, heavy cream for water. Add sage, parmesan, and black pepper after the dough just comes together in the food processor. I topped the dough with fleur de sel just before baking. This dough took about 5 minutes longer to bake than the olive oil version.