Some of you might remember my confession-slash-recipe from a previous October Unprocessed challenge, where I shared tales of my relentless need to stuff my face with salty snacks like Fritos. My self-imposed therapy of making at-home versions of all my favorite junky treats has more or less taken consumed all my waking ours in the year since that post, but don’t worry about me. I’ve got a really good excuse for revamping my Fritos recipe, licking Doritos for hours, and dreaming of Cheetos (yes, this really happened): I’ve been writing a whole cookbook devoted to the topic, Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats (Ulysses Press, January 2013).
I admit that not all the recipes in the book are fully unprocessed – though I shy away from turning my homemade Sno-Balls neon pink and use pure Vermont cheese powder on my Cheetos, organic vegetable shortening sneaks into a few things here and there – it’s pleasantly surprising to find how many things can be recreated very easily with whole ingredients. Dairy Queen soft serve? Fresh, unhomogenized cream is the key to that silky, melty texture. Funyuns? Yep, there’s an organic cereal that’s the secret ingredient to those crunchy deep-fried rings.
Apart from “you can make that?”, the question I’ve been hearing most over the past few months is which homemade snack is my favorite of the bunch. It’s most often the recipe I’m developing at the time (unless it’s something that’s giving me trouble, like when I had to make the entire fruit pie chapter in 90-degree July heat), but I’ll always have a place in my heart for Cheez-Its, which were one of the first recipes I replicated from scratch.
This unprocessed, whole grain version differs slightly from the cookbook recipe, but if you didn’t know the crackers were made with whole wheat flour, you’d never be able to tell the difference. The slightly heartier flavor reminds me of the batches of Cheez-Its that are slightly darker brown around the edges than their boxed brethren, the just-on-the-edge-of-burnt crackers that I’d always root around for, and then save for last. (Yeah, I still do the same thing with the extra-browned Triscuits too.)
Never fear: they’re still salty enough for my saline-loving taste buds, they’ve still got cheesiness out the wazoo, and they leave just a hint – just a wee, wee hint – of buttery grease on your fingers, like a good Cheez-It should. And somehow they’re even better a few days after you first make them, so don’t gobble your way through the whole batch right off the bat.
Homemade Whole Wheat Cheez-Its
Once you try these homemade Cheez- Its, there is no going back!
- 1 8-ounce block extra sharp Cheddar cheese coarsely shredded
- 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour (4 1/4 ounces)
- 1-2 tablespoons ice water
Blend the Cheddar, Parmesan, butter, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, or pulse the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment until soft and homogenous.
Add the flour and mix on low speed/pulse to combine; the dough will be dry and pebbly.
Slowly add the water (through the feed tube if using a food processor) and continue to mix/pulse as the dough coalesces into a mass. Depending on the cheese used and the humidity levels when you're making the Cheez-Its, you might only need a small dribble of water or the full 2 tablespoons.
Pat the dough into a disk, wrap tightly with waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.
Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each into a very thin (1/8 inch or less) 10- by 12-inch rectangle. Using a fluted pastry cutter or a pizza cutter, cut the rectangles into 1-inch squares, then transfer to the baking sheets. Use the tip of a chopstick or a toothpick to punch a hole into the center of each square.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and browning at the edges. Watch carefully, as the crackers will go from golden to burnt in the blink of an eye.
Immediately move the crackers to racks to cool. Cheez-Its will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week.
I use Cabot extra sharp Cheddar, Plugra butter, and King Arthur Flour white whole wheat flour.
About the Author
Casey Barber is a nationally recognized food writer and photographer, author of the cookbooks Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats and Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food, editor of the website Good. Food. Stories. and founder of The Casey BarberSHOP, an online shop for pop culture-inspired gifts. You can also find Casey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
I am totally digging these. My kids love snacking on crackers, but I find myself searching the supermarket aisles for ones that aren’t filled with all sorts of trans fats, etc.
Delicious!! Can you freeze the dough for later?
Heck yes totally trying these! They look easy too, can’t wait! My kids think Cheez Its are SO amazing – I only let them have them a couple times a year though, they are total junk food filler. 🙁 These are actually wholesome and nutritious, thanks so much for sharing!
You can sub out almond flour too in this recipe. For those of us who don’t eat or tolerate grains.
oh, but add an egg white to help bind it.
I have no idea what a Cheezit is??? But these crackers look yummy!
Are Cheezits like cheese fishies? My son loves these and I hate buying them for him…. Thanks for the recipe.
Oh, Connie, I love the idea of a jalapeno cheese cracker! I doubt most jalapeno Jack cheeses pass the unprocessed test, but if you de-seed half a jalapeno (make sure to wear protective gloves when handling raw chilies), chop it coarsely, and whir it around in the food processor for a few seconds, you’ll get a spicy paste. Add a tablespoon or two to the recipe and blend with the cheese, butter, and salt.
Thanks so much for the tip, that is very useful! I look forward to trying them this weekend!
I love Cheezit’s, but I hate how bad they are for me and my family – so we try to steer clear of them. My son and I made a recipe similar to yours and it was quick, delish and fun to make. I look forward to your cookbook for other ideas on healthy homemade treats!
I am speechless and so happy!
So addictive, I recall my last Cheezit with fondness.
Now to convert this recipe to gluten-free and look forward to your book. Can’t wait to see the fun-yun recipe.
My friend used to make homemade jalapeno cheese crackers, which were delicious. I lost the recipe, and can’t wait to try these. I’ll try them out with some jalapeno, too!