– Homemade Goldfish Crackers and Other Photos by Judi Swinks –
You all know I’m a sucker for comfort food, and there are few things more comforting than classic treats that trigger a warm feeling of nostalgia from childhood. That’s the whole point of Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, a new book from first-time cookbook author Casey Barber; to take you back to the simple gustatory joys enjoyed alongside Little League practice, Girl Scout meetings, and Saturday Morning Cartoons.
Barber, who blogs over at online food magazine Good. Food. Stories., is known among food circles for being a top source of information when it comes to culinary Americana. She’s pulled out all the stops for her book, polling hundreds of people for their best memories of classic snacks, trying to pinpoint exactly what makes them favorites, and why. If you grew up in the 80s, 90s, or ‘aughts (is that what we’re calling them now?), or if you packed a lunch for your kids during any of these decades, you’ll appreciate the quick trip down Junk Food Memory Lane.
Barber has created eerily spot-on renditions of vintage brand-name snacks, such as homemade Goldfish Crackers, Fruit Roll-Ups, Chickin-In-A-Biskit, Hostess Cupcakes, and countless others goodies you probably haven’t bought in years if you avoid the junk food aisle of the supermarket. Other recipes–such as her Jell-O Pudding Pops, Cheez-Its crackers, and Oreo Cookies–are decidedly more adult, taking what was once an empty but beloved snack and turning it into something special, something that your adult self will savor while still remembering what it’s like to sit on the front porch while sticky, creamy rivulets of chocolate pudding dribble down your arm.
What I find the most gratifying about this book is that I can revisit all of my favorite childhood snacks without sacrificing my no-preservative rule, in which I avoid any and all ingredients that I either A) can’t pronounce, or B), contains more than ten letters or four syllables. These recipes are certainly not on the healthy end of the spectrum, but they do adhere “stick to what your grandma baked with” line of thinking.
My personal favorite recipe in Classic Snacks Made from Scratch is one for homemade Cheez-Its, which are far more grown up than the version I remember as a kid. Gone are the empty calories and impressive array of artificial flavorings; instead, what you’ve got here are supremely crispy, cheesy crackers that make you want to hide a bag in the closet to keep them all for yourself. If you really want to up the ante, I recommend making these crackers with a robust artisan cheddar such as Lincolnshire Poacher–the resulting snack is a cheddary, mother-loving punch in the kisser, worthy of even the most high profile party platter.
So, yes–I recommend this book with great enthusiasm. And at under $12, it’s an easy gift for anyone who grew up loving foods such as Sno-Balls or Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Which is, you know, just about everyone born after 1965.
That’s about it this time around! I hope you’re enjoying the changing weather and managing to keep clear of any post-winter colds and flus that have been floating around your part of the world. Just in case it did get you, here’s my favorite, ginger-laden chicken soup recipe.
- 1 cup (4 ounces) very finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) cake flour
- 1 tablespoon Cheddar cheese powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 cup whole or reduced-fat milk
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Stir the cheese, flours, Cheddar powder, salt, baking powder, and onion powder together in a large bowl until the cheese is evenly distributed and coated. Add the milk and vegetable oil and continue to stir with a spatula, then knead in the bowl with your hands until a cohesive dough forms. It will be crumbly at first, but continue to press and knead the dough until any dry bits are incorporated.
- Transfer the dough to your work surface, cover with the upside-down bowl, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Refrigerate one piece while you roll the second piece as thin as humanly possible, no more than 1/8-inch thick. (The thinner your dough, the crispier your crackers will be; thicker dough means puffier, more bread-like crackers.)
- Stamp out cracker shapes with your cookie cutter of choice: a fish is the traditional shape, of course, but the crackers taste just as good as hearts, stars, circles, or small squares. Transfer the shapes to the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the crackers are crispy and just turning golden at the edges. The timing will vary according to the size and shape of your crackers.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
- The crackers will soften when kept in an airtight container, so they’re best eaten within a day or two.