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I don’t see how it’s possible to dislike these crackers. If you don’t like cheese, maybe you won’t like these (although, really, I don’t see how it’s possible to dislike cheese, but there are such people out there). But I love cheese, and I’ve recently become enamored of Gruyere, which is what I used to make these.

I’ve tried something like this in the past – cheddar pennies, they were called, or something like that. That ended terribly, as I recall. Everything melted into a puddle of goo and then burned to a crisp. I have, since then, learned to watch the oven, but I don’t think a pile of goo is any more appetizing than crispy-burnt crackers.

These, thankfully, turned out much better.

Personally, I hate Cheez-its. They are the worst of the cheese crackers, in my opinion. They have a weird chemical taste. It’s how I would expect cheese crackers to taste if there was not actual cheese in the cracker. I have no idea if Cheez-its have real cheese in them or not. They taste like they don’t, and that’s all that matters to me.

These taste the way Cheez-its would taste if you made them yourself and put real food in them. In other words, they taste the way Cheez-its should taste. They’re crunchy and flaky and give you a nice burst of cheese flavor when you bite into them. None of that chalky texture that you get with Cheez-its. These little crackers make for a nice little snack.

And – no surprise – they’re easy to make. They do take a bit of time with the rolling and the baking, but the nice thing is that you can make the dough ahead of time, stick it in the fridge, then pull it out when you’ve got time. They bake for about 15 minutes, which gives you enough time to cut out more crackers, so it’s not that time consuming. Unless you’re like me and you’re trying to eat dinner, frost cupcakes, and bring order to the kitchen at the same time. Then it takes you a little bit longer.

Ingredients, assemble! This is all it takes. Cheese and butter and seasonings go in and get pulsed. Then the flour joins the party. It forms a dry but pliable dough.

Ingredients, assemble! This is all it takes. Cheese and butter and seasonings go in and get pulsed. Then the flour joins the party. It forms a dry but pliable dough.

The dough is split, and each half is formed into a disk. They go into the fridge to chill out a bit - for at least an hour and up to three days. Here's the first disk ready for rolling.

The dough is split, and each half is formed into a disk. They go into the fridge to chill out a bit – for at least an hour and up to three days. Here’s the first disk ready for rolling.

The dough gets rolled thin, and then you cut out circles. I used a shot glass. Perfect!

The dough gets rolled thin, and then you cut out circles. I used a shot glass. Perfect!

The crackers get baked until they're firm and browned a bit. I may have rolled mine a bit thin, because they needed the shortest suggested cooking time, and they still got pretty well done. But that's okay! I like 'em that way!

The crackers get baked until they’re firm and browned a bit. I may have rolled mine a bit thin, because they needed the shortest suggested cooking time, and they still got pretty well done. But that’s okay! I like ’em that way!

I’m not a big cracker-eater, but I could definitely see having these around when company’s coming to visit. Hey, like next week! Perfect timing! Of course, Geordie liked these too, and they actually go pretty nicely with his lunch sandwich. They’re not something I’d make every week, but they would make a nice treat every once in a while.

That’s pretty much it for this week – a nice, simple project, which was just what this week needed. It’s been a busy one, and I’m hoping the weekend is a bit less hectic. My parents and brother are coming for a visit, so I’ve got plans to feed them properly, but I’m going for some simple, easy meals. Fortunately, the kitchen is open to the living room, so even if I’m stuck in there, it’s not like I’ll be isolated.

Anyway, these crackers are definitely a nice alternative to “the real thing,” and you can use a variety of cheeses to suit your own tastes (even though I still say that Gruyere is the best choice, but I’m developing a true love affair with this cheese, so maybe I’m biased). They were certainly popular with the French Friday crowd! Check out their links and their cute little cheese crackers. Yum yum – they’re even good for breakfast!

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I had my doubts about these. Olives are not a food item that I get excited about. I never eat them just by themselves. I don’t mind them on pizzas or Tex-Mex meals or Italian pasta dishes. But a little goes a long way. I was worried about what I would do with a quart of them sitting in my fridge.

Fortunately, they’ll last for a couple of months in there. It will probably take me that long to eat them, because Geordie has opted out of this one. He’s even less impressed with olives than I am.

It’s a simple recipe – though it’s really more of a method. Olives + herbs & spices + olive oil = herbed olives. They should marinate at least 8 hours, but Dorie suggests letting them sit at least a week before digging into them. I took this advice, and I’m glad I did. I noticed a distinct hint of the various flavorings when biting into one of these olives after they marinated for a week. Also, I bit down into a coriander seed. Big explosion of flavor there. Maybe more than necessary.

But, wait. Let’s start from the beginning.

I used just regular black and green olives. Because I wasn’t sure how I would feel about these, I just bought canned olives. I didn’t see the point of spending any more money than that.

Rosemary and thyme hanging out together. A variety of herbs and spices went into this: rosemary, thyme, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves. They all got heated with some olive oil and then poured over the olives.

I put them in two pint jars, because that’s what I had. They look pretty snug and comfy in there, don’t they? After this, the lids got screwed on, and into the fridge they went.

That’s it. You gotta love simplicity.

I worried about one thing: what would happen in the fridge. I know from experience that the olive oil I buy will turn solid in the fridge. I’ve stopped dousing my hummus with it when I put it fresh in the fridge. It was unpleasant. This meant I couldn’t just pop into the jar of olives whenever I felt like it. I’d have to plan to eat them so I could set them out to let the olive oil de-solidify. Luckily, this doesn’t take long to do. And nothing is lost in the flavor department.

But it’s not so much marination as it is suspended animation. I do wonder if my olives would be even more flavorful if I had an olive oil that didn’t solidify. But I like my olive oil, and I’m sticking with it, and that’s that.

Absolutely solid. But kinda pretty.

For the full jar, it took about an hour to turn to liquid again. Not too long, but a little long if you’re having a snack attack and want one immediately.

As I mentioned, I don’t eat olives by themselves, not even these, flavorful as they are. I debated on what to do with them. I considered them as an accompaniment to a spanikopita pie, but then that dinner plan got delayed (next week, filo dough, I promise!), and my olives were left untasted. And Geordie remained reluctant to try them and was not at all happy about the idea of having to eat them with dinner. I decided lunch would be a better use of them.

A bed of feta topped with chopped tomatoes and herbed olives, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pepper.

This was tasty. Feta and tomato and olive oil make a good combination. The olives went quite well with them. I should have had some spinach with them, but that would have required work, and I don’t like having to work for my lunch. Cutting up the tomato was bad enough. But I bet it would be tasty. Maybe next time.

Because, yes, I’ll be eating this for lunch again. I enjoyed it greatly. I also did munch on the olives for Thanksgiving day brunch, with a little goat cheese. Some crackers would have been nice, but I don’t usually have any in the house. Something to consider for the next jar of olives. I’ve made it about halfway through the first jar, so I’ve got to think of interesting ways to consume the second one.

Oooh! Brainstorm: olive hummus. Making hummus has become a hobby of mine, apparently. For December, I’m making a small batch of pumpkin hummus and a small batch of lemon hummus. I’m totally slating olive hummus for January.

Also, I think my mother would enjoy these a great deal. If I don’t have any left by the time my family arrives for Christmas, I might just have to make another batch of them for her to try.

I have to admit, this one surprised me a little. I really thought I might not like it. But these olives are definitely growing on me. I probably wouldn’t have these olives in my fridge all year long, but I could see making a batch of them every once in a while. Oddly enough for a French recipe, they make a nice accompaniment to a Greek-style meal. Go figure.

To see how the other Doristas liked these olives (and how they used them!), check out the French Fridays with Dorie links. And, as always, if you’re interested in this recipe, check out Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, which continues to surprise and amuse me! Happy cooking!

These start with a pâte à choux, which sounds fancy and complicated but really isn’t. It was a recipe I was anxious (but excited) about doing, because I’ve never done anything with choux pastry before, but it’s the base of so many wonderful things (croquembouches, profiteroles, eclairs, beignets, etc.) that it’s a handy skill to have. Those are all desserts; this is supposed to serve as an hors d’oeuvre. We don’t generally do such things in this house (we haven’t had any guests yet because we’re still in the middle of barely controlled chaos), so I’ve been eating them as snacks. And as dinner. And breakfast.

They’re kind of addictive.

Anyway, the pastry is simple enough to put together. The key is that you have to be dedicated to doing it. You can’t just start it, then meander off to check your email or something. It’s simple but needs attention. Fortunately, it’s not a long process. In fact, it goes by pretty quick.

Butter, milk, water, and salt go into a pan and are brought to a strong boil. Flour is then dumped in, the heat is reduced, and everything is beaten rapidly together so that the dough dries out and becomes smooth and firm.

The dough goes into a mixing bowl, and you start adding eggs, one at a time. Beat terrifically as each egg goes in, incorporating it fully before adding another. Tough work at times, but it goes quickly.

See how nice and thick and shiny it is? This is what gets dropped on the baking sheets in tablespoon-fuls. Then, they go into the oven for a total of about 24-28 minutes.

And when they come out of the oven, they are all puffy and light and golden.

Aren’t they cute? These were actually supposed to be “mini” puffs, but I didn’t make them mini because . . . well, I have no reason, I just didn’t. Not all of them ended up so lovely and puffed. I put 18 into the oven first, but I had some batter left over, and I hate to waste anything that promises to be tasty. So I prepared another tray of them (about 8, I think) and let them rest while the others baked. The first batch puffed up in the oven, but as soon as I took them out, they began to deflate. I was a little disappointed, but they still tasted good, so I didn’t let it bother me too much. I just went ahead and threw the second batch in the oven.

And they came out perfect. Their puff held outside of the oven, and still does even after spending the night in the fridge. I may have baked them a minute or two longer than the first batch, but I’m not sure if that’s what made the differece. All I know is, it doesn’t matter what they look like if just Geordie and I are going to eat them. They are delicious.

Of course, they’re better when they’ve got something stuffed into them. Behold:

Herbed goat cheese mixed with cream cheese and heavy whipping cream. Let’s not even pretend this is in any way healthy.

That mouth-watering concoction got put into a pastry bag and then squeezed into the choux pastry puffs. This was pretty easy to do, though I can see why “mini” would have worked better here. It took me a few tries to figure out exactly how much cheese I was putting into the puffs. Some got not enough, others got gorged. The perfect puffs were easy enough to fill, but the flat puffs were a little trickier. But they all got filled and thus fulfilled their choux pastry destiny.

Seriously, I love these things. Just looking at them makes me hungry.

Since making them, I have been eating them non-stop. I ate one before I even put any goat cheese in them. I ate another while deciding what to do for dinner. I had had a plan, but the kitchen was now a mess, Geordie wasn’t feeling very well, and all I wanted to eat was goat cheese puffs. He ended up making some canned soup for himself. I sliced up a tomato and ate it with four more goat cheese puffs. Then I forced myself to stop, even though I could have eaten at least ten more before bedtime.

And now I’m having them for breakfast.

I can see myself making these again. Oh, yes. I want to stuff them with custard cream, which is what is generally done with them in Japan. There, they are called シュークリーム (shu kurimu), which sounds more like something you’d put on your leather shoes to keep them supple than something you’d want to eat. When I first encountered choux à la crème in Japan, it was explained to me (by a fellow foreign teacher) that the name was another weird example of mangled language – something to do with the cream looking like shoe polish or the like. It was a ridiculous explanation then, just as it is now. The French choux is pronounced shu. Apparently, this guy forgot that the Japanese adopt words from languages besides English.

Language points aside, the Japanese know what they’re doing. They sell shu kurimu the size of your fist, stuffed full of pastry creams of various flavors and sometimes coated in chocolate, making them a rounder, jollier version of an eclair. They are messy to eat and insanely delicious. And you can buy them anywhere. Including the local 7-11. But the best places to get them are at stores that specialize in them, like GinzaWest or Hirota or Beard Papa’s (yes, seriously).

Alright, so I doubt you’d ever see choux pastry stuffed with goat cheese in Japan, but you would certainly see choux pastry. And now that I know I can do that, it would be nice to see if I can bring shu kurimu back into my life!

It seems like these were popular all-around this week. To see how the other Doristas liked them, check out the links. And if you want to try them yourself, find a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table and have some fun with us!

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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