I feel as if the season is getting away from me. It slips and slides and whimpers through my fingers as I grasp at empty air. The months whisper by, leaving flurries rushed into the corners: a reminder of what could have been. In the heat of mid-July, I yearn for winter’s cold and sharp air; to feel my lungs aching from the cold, snowflakes blurring the the space around me. I feel incomplete. I feel a void in summertime’s winter promise. I feel it rushing past, in a hurry to a party it will never reach. I forget, this time last year, when I was cursing the snow and ice and sleet. I hated my un-mittened hands, fingers too cold to bend, and tips of ears bitten blue from wind. This time last year, I was cursing winter for staying too long, not spring for barging through the door.
My time is filled with school and work and internship and more school again. I haven’t had much time to breathe, let alone relax, or read, or cook, or even just do nothing, like I so desperately hunger for. Life is currently a tangled ball of yarn, bending and twisting and turning on itself in a feeble attempt to create a facade of order. I seek out the small moments of my day: the silence of the morning when it’s only Rory and myself awake – she: winding herself through my legs and flopping to the floor beneath my feet. The ten minute drive between work and class – windows rolled down, wind flowing into car. The waves of steam drifting upward from my cup of tea. The alchemical combination of sauce to noodle, cheese to bread, burger to grill. I suppose others would label me a loner or hermit. In truth, I crave the silence and stillness of being alone; to be one with the world in my own way.
The stillness of the kitchen lingers in the back of my consciousness. I find myself looking back to home and the solace of dough between my fingers, sauce simmering and wafting though the air, water tumbling and lingering on the curves of vegetables, the scent of roasting seeping into the crannies of my life. I measure the flour for these cracker a little at a time, puffs falling from the edges of the bowl to sprinkle the counter top. Cheese is grated slowly, tenderly, so as not to forget any solitary speck of rich, creamy cheddar. Jalapenos, roasted, until charred and cracked, blackened. Flour meets butter meets cheese meets jalapeno. A rest, to let the world soak in. Then, a quick bake. Perfection.
Blackened Jalapeno and Cheddar Crackers
Adapted, slightly, from Gluten Free Girl
7.4 ounces gluten-free all-purpose flour (I use America’s Test Kitchen blend)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole psyllium husks
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (I really liked how Cabot Creamery’s Extra Sharp Cheddar complimented the blackened jalapenos in this cracker)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
Begin by turning on your broiler and letting the oven preheat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (not parchment, like I attempted. Fires will happen). Place the two jalapenos on the sheet and broil until nicely charred, turning often to ensure even cooking. When the jalapenos are charred to your desired level, remove them to a ziploc baggie and seal. Let the jalapenos steam in the bag for at least 15 minutes. This steam time will allow the skins to easily peel away and gives the jalapenos a cooling-off period.
After the jalapenos are steamed, remove them from the bag and, using your fingers, carefully remove the skin and slice the jalapenos in half length-wise. Remove the seeds and dice the jalapeno very small. Be sure not to tough your face while handling the jalapenos and thoroughly wash your hands when you’re done.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, and psyllium in a large bowl until well combined. Add the cold butter cubes and, using your hands, break the chunks into small, pea-size pieces. I like to smoosh the butter into the flour with my fingers, kind of squeeze it together and roll it into smaller bits. This will take some time, but it’s very satisfying. I also find that a food processor will sometimes miss a piece or two of butter. By breaking the butter up by hand, you ensure that you’ve broken all pieces.
Add the cheese, Dijon mustard, and chopped jalapenos. Mix thoroughly with a large spoon or spatula. Add the white vinegar and 3/4 cup of ice-cold water (I fill a measuring cup to 3/4 full and add a couple of ice cubes. I remove the cubes when I’m ready to use it (adjusting the amount of water as needed, if the cubes have melted some). Stir the mixture together with a large spoon or spatula until all the flour is incorporated. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until the dough comes together. If it’s too wet, add more flour.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or 2 hours if able. Gluten-free doughs need to hydrate and will require a resting period to allow the water to absorb.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to warm up enough to roll out, but not to be room temperature (you don’t want the butter to get too warm or the crackers won’t be flaky).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 4 sections. Place the remaining three sections in the refrigerator when working with one section.
Roll out each section of dough between two pieces of parchment paper until 1/4 inch thick. Use a small biscuit cutter to cut out the crackers. Move them over to the prepared baking sheet, using a bench scraper to loosen if needed.
Bake the crackers for 12 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake an additional 10 to 20 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. Remove the crackers from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet.
You can continue making crackers with the remaining dough, or you can freeze the remaining dough until you need it.
Makes 40 to 100 crackers, depending on the size you make them.