Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Nibble Before the Feast

You would never know by the frequency with which I've been blogging that I have been cooking up a storm. Really, I have been. I've been doing a few test runs for turkey day, I've been brushing up on my bread-baking skills, and I've been doing a fair bit of entertaining-worthy cooking and baking, too. But I've been neglecting my dear little Red Ramekin, and I feel very badly about it.

So, in an effort to appease, I have a shockingly easy and tasty treat for you all. No, it's not a gasp-inducing Thanksgiving stunner, but rather a tasty little bite to complement imminent face-stuffing.

Make them as pre- or post-dinner snacks for the big day, or tuck this recipe away for the next time you have a dinner party or are otherwise in the market for something sexy to go with your brie. These cookie-like crackers toe the line between sweet and savory, and have an intriguing combination of flavors that make them right for just about any occasion.

I modelled these crackers after similar ones that I purchased at Whole Foods several months ago. They are advertised as red wine biscuits that go perfectly with cheese, but I had to show some restraint in order not to gobble them all up solo. They had an assertive winey flavor with the subtle, back-of-the-throat heat that only black pepper can induce.

So why bother attempting them at home? Well, a petite little bag of the crackers set me back about six dollars. They were good, but they weren't stuffed with truffles or anything. I had been meaning to replicate them for a while, but finally got around to it a few weeks ago, and served them, along with some other treats, for dessert.

I make these crackers like refrigerator cookies: roll the dough into a log, chill, slice, and bake. It's a wildly convenient method that allows me to bake a few now and a few later, and the dough logs also freeze pretty well. The dough itself is rich with zesty red wine, olive oil, and plenty of freshly-ground black pepper, and I throw in just a pinch of grated lemon zest for a little extra zip.

The first time I made these, I added about 1/4 c. of sugar, and they were pleasantly sweet and perfect to end a meal. The second time, I reduced the sugar to just a tablespoon, and they seemed better suited for pre-dinner snacking. Next time I make them, I might add two tablespoons of sugar, just to even things out. Sweeten according to your tastes, but do include at least one tablespoon of sugar, as the wine and pepper need just a hint of sweetness to really come out boldly here.

I really love the idea of these crackers, and will now use just about any excuse to make them. The only bad thing about them is their photographing potential: these aren't particularly pretty cookies, and although the colors of red wine, lemon zest, and olive oil really pop in their pure forms, mix them all together and a sort of brownish thing results. No matter, they taste too good for anyone to gripe about their appearance. Just cover them up with some good goat cheese or brie, and nobody will be the wiser.

Red (Wine) and Black (Pepper) Biscuits

1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. red wine


Mix flour, salt, pepper, sugar, baking soda, and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl. Add oil and red wine, and stir to incorporate, kneading with your fingers a bit if necessary. Form dough into two logs, each with a diameter of about an inch or so. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for at least 30min., or freeze for later. Once chilled, unwrap the logs and slice into 1/4 in. thick slices. Place on a parchment- or foiled-lined baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees until just barely beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 20min. Serve plain or with a soft cheese.

1 comment:

Christina said...

I never would have thought of adding red wine to a savory biscuit/cracker, but it really is a great idea! Sounds like the perfect pre-meal snack.