I have been traveling a lot recently. And the last two times I came home from a week long trip I found a package of Goldfish in my pantry. And not just any package, mind you, but the giant carton of Goldfish. You know, the one they sell at the Bog Box stores. My kids, like all kids it seems, love Goldfish crackers. And they can go through that giant box of goldfish in a weekend. I’ll admit, in the past we used to indulge in the savory little bites quite frequently. I thought they were a “healthy”choice. But when I made the switch to real foods a few years back, Goldfish cracks really didn’t make the cut.
Goldfish are by no means the worst snack you can buy. (I’m looking at you Doritos, Cheetos and Twinkies). They contain little sugar and surprisingly no artificial colors or flavors. But, with enriched wheat flour (not whole wheat), vegetable oils and MSG, they are also not the best. And while they do still make visits to our house for special occasions, they are not something that I would buy on a regular basis.
But, as I contemplated that giant (and almost empty) box of Goldfish, I admitted that my typically healthy eating kids really liked this snack. Even my youngest, who is by far my best eater and has voluntarily walked away from many conventional snacks because they “just don’t taste good anymore” would gladly sit down with a bowl of Goldfish. So, I wondered if I could recreate a homemade version of the cheesy little snacks that would appease their appetites, but also provide a little nutrition in the process. I proposed the idea to my youngest son, who wants to be a chef when he grows up and loves spending time in the kitchen with me, and he was super-excited to give this idea a try.
Believe it or not, despite all the cooking and baking I do, I have never made a homemade savory cracker before. I generally limit our cracker purchases to Organic Triscuits, Simple Mills Crackers, and Wasa Flax Seed Crackers – but there a variety of options for us direct from the grocery store. And while I love to cook at home, our lives our busy, so if there is a minimally-processed food I can buy so much the better. Therefore, it just never occurred to me to make crackers.
But as I thought about the ingredient list on the crackers I do buy: whole wheat, whole grains, seeds, olive oil, salt, spices – I thought I can surely do this. I knew I’d need to add cheese to get that familiar Goldfish flavor, which monetarily stumped me, but then I found this Easy Cheese Crackers recipe from Lisa over at 100 Days of Real Food and figured I’d just grate our favorite organic sharp cheddar cheese to use in my recipe.
I started by grating 8 ounces of organic cheddar cheese (I used white because that’s what we usually buy, but the crackers still had a golden tinge because of the whole wheat flour) in my food processor. Then I transferred the shredded cheese to another bowl, and (without cleaning out the food processor bowl), I combined 1 cup of whole wheat flour, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika in the food processor and pulsed a couple times. To the flour mixture I then added 4 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into small pieces and ran the food processor until the mixture resembled coarse meal. Then I added the cheese in three sections, pulsing after each addition until well incorporated. Finally, with the food processor running I added a little bit of filtered water just to get the dough to come together into a ball. Actually, if I’m being honest, I didn’t do any of this. My little guy was in charge of making the dough.
I transferred the dough ball to some parchment paper, flattened it into a disc and refrigerated for about 25 minutes, to make it easier to roll. While the dough was chilling we went through our cookie cutters searching for a Goldfish shape – to no avail. Our biggest dilemma with these crackers was deciding what shape to make them. I suggested a bunny, in honor of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, the “healthy” organic version of goldfish (if you are interested in seeing how Goldfish and Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies compare you can read about them here). And then my little guy proposed we also do baby chicks, since Easter is right around the corner. So, bunnies and chicks it was.
When the dough was chilled, I divided it in half and rolled it to between 1/8-1/4 inch thick. The thinner you roll the dough the crispier and crunchier your crackers. The thicker dough results in slightly softer crackers. We had some of each and determined that we liked our crackers a little bit thicker, but they were both delicious.
The first thing my son said when I took the dough out of the fridge was, “Wow! This really smells like Goldfish.” And I had to agree with him. It did. Once the dough was rolled out the two of us used our Easter cookie cutters to cut out the crackers and transferred them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (If you don’t use parchment paper when you bake, you really should! It helps your items cook evenly and makes clean up so much easier). Then we popped them into the oven at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes until the edges were lightly browned.
And that’s it. In just about an hour we had an entire container of homemade cheese crackers. The hardest part may have been letting them cool long enough to make our first taste-test. Once the seeming-eternity of ten minutes had passed, my little guy had his first sample and he declared, “Oh these are awesome! These are so much better than goldfish!”
At just about that time the rest of my family arrived home, and immediately dove into the crackers cooling on the stove. Everyone loved them, even my picky teenage son. And I have a feeling that this will be a recipe I make on repeat.