Cheese Thins, a.k.a. “Cheese Crackies”

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Cheese Thins, a.k.a. “Cheese Crackies”

Serves: Makes ~40 cheese thins
Cost: ~€2.80
Preparation and cooking time: ~25 minutes
Calories: ~68 per cheese thin

Hi there folks, we had a food festival recently in my area, but this wasn’t your standard food festival. No siree, for part of this food festival was dedicated to celebrating food trucks! Yes, that sight so common in pretty much every other country on earth (and it’s not just necessarily in “truck” form, but maybe they’re selling food out of carts on the back of bicycles) seems to be finally coming to France. Baby steps though – it’s not common yet. When I was a kid I could remember going to a big hardware store with my parents on some weekends, whenever they needed something for some home repairs – a tube of mastic, tile grout – and what would there always be outside the store? Two or three vans selling hotdogs, burgers, ice-cream. It seems the French just don’t do street food in this way. Sure – if you’re walking around Paris at night there’s myriad windows opening onto the street – extensions of small cafés where you can buy a crêpe, or a “hotdog” – why is it in quotations you ask? Well, a French hotdog seems to consist of a piece of baguette which is spiked down the middle to create a long hole. A hot sausage is stuffed inside and then the whole thing is topped with emmental cheese and, occasionally, béchamel sauce. Really people? It’s a hotdog… do we have to try and make everything gourmet?

Mobile “street” food though… well, that just doesn’t really exist (I don’t even think I’ve ever seen an ice-cream truck here!) so to have a gathering of food trucks all in one place – well, that’s a big deal! We went down to the mall and there were four trucks there – one of them even sold poutine which I must admit I was tempted by. In the end though my wife and I settled for a burger. They’d sold out completely of fries (probably just as well, the burger was huge) but it was surprisingly good. Well cooked, delicately seasoned meat, a well toasted bun, with caramelised onions and cheese. They’re welcome back here any time!

Sausages

After we’d eaten our burger we had a wander around inside the mall and found that they were actually having festivities inside too. Big stands selling sausages, olives, pretzels, nougat (and this was some giant nougat… seriously, one of the blocks was bigger than my son!) and macarons. I have to admit, I’ve never seen so many macarons in my entire life, and so much variety, though I must say I was disappointed in their appearance. Many of them didn’t have a smooth top or a well formed “foot”, so I guess the makers were really going for quantity over quality there. We bought some olives and sausages though, which you can see above (from top: Olive, Pepper, “Taureau”, made with bull meat, and finally Chorizo).

On to today’s recipe – I saw this posted on Barb’s blog Profiteroles and Ponytails back in the beginning of June and I immediately knew I wanted to make them as soon as I could. As luck would have it, I had the remainder of a bag of puffed rice so I knew they’d be the next thing I made. Sadly I didn’t have rosemary, or Worcestershire Sauce, so I made a few substitutions. I love cheese with a bit of kick too so I added some cayenne pepper, which turned out great.

I used gruyère cheese, which in retrospect I do believe isn’t the best cheese for these biscuits. It has a very rich, nutty flavour and I think something strong, but less complex would work great here – a good cheddar will be what I go for next time, though I’m also thinking you could do incredible things with a blue cheese and cheddar combination!

Cheese Thins

Barb, thank you for letting me reproduce the recipe, and I hope you’ll ask your mother to relay the message to Raymond that we greatly enjoyed his “crackies”, although I’ll need to remember to push them out even more thinly next time!

Cheese Thins

Adapted from an original recipe here

Ingredients

Cheese Thins ingredients

  • 50g Puffed Rice (Rice Krispies or similar)
  • 120ml Olive Oil
  • 140g Plain Flour
  • 250g Cheddar, grated
  • 1tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 2tsps Cayenne Pepper
  • 2tsps dried Oregano (optional)
  • 4 cloves of Garlic

Instructions

  1. Start off by preheating your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Peel and crush the garlic and then place with all the other ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you have a manageable dough (you’ll need to stop and scoop down the sides occasionally, and bear in mind that it shouldn’t be a smooth dough). If you don’t have a food processor then you can do this by hand – crush the puffed rice and ensure the cheese is grated very finely. Mix everything together in a large bowl until you have a dough.
    Making the cheese thins
  2. Pinch off small balls of dough, roll between your hands and place onto a non-stick baking sheet, leaving room to spread between each one. Flatten out to a thickness of about 5mm using a fork and then bake in the oven for about 8 minutes (a bit longer if you like them well done). Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Enjoy!
    Cheese Thins

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55 Comments

  1. Hi Charles, these look great! I smiled reading your post – coming from New Zealand I grew up with ‘trucks’ selling indeed, just about everything..and all as fresh as fresh could be. But I don’t believe I’ve ever even seen a ‘truck’ here in The Netherlands – I suspect one needs a ‘diploma’ and certification to even be allowed to go in the vicinity of food. Not that it’s improved our national kitchen in any way shape or form :(

    Reply
    • Hi Veronica, it’s weird – it’s even a common thing in England, although the ones they have there usually look rather questionable. Nasty burgers being sold at the side of the road… bleurgh. I hope it’s a sign that such establishments will be on the rise. It’s obviously not something I’d want to eat all the time but every now and again makes for a nice treat :)

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  2. Yum, I love the addition of the mustard in these :)

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  3. Street food is highly regulated in the city of Toronto. In fact, several years ago some entrepreneurs wanted to diversify their selection with healthier, fresher options and the government stepped in, forcing existing vendors to upgrade their already expensive licenses and they even went as far as to dictate what could be sold. Epic fail! We have the usual suspects: hot dogs (really ordinary, it would make you proud, Charles!), sausages, burgers, doughnuts, beavertails (a Canadian treat), shwarma, fried chicken, soft ice cream, ice cream bars etc. Sometimes at special events you can get ‘gourmet’ items like an East Coast Lobster Role (lobster meat with excessive mayo stuffed into a cotton baton white hot dog bun), tacos, pop corn shrimp etc. It’s ironic that the government’s concern is over what they serve and spend little time on the food safety; unless you choose a vendor with high turnover, I wouldn’t trust the food from any of these trucks. I’m not a fan of street food, can you tell?
    I saw this recipe on Barb’s blog and thought the addition of rice crispies was clever. Too bad the gruyere didn’t work out, was it too greasy? Imported cheese is absurdly expensive in Ontario, occasionally we can get descent block cheddar (good enough for baking/cooking) for 3€ ($3.99) for 500g so I buy 3-4 blocks, grate and freeze them for further use. I’m going to have to try this recipe for sure! Thanks for the endorsement. It’s a long weekend this week, we’re celebrating Canada’s birthday on Monday, YAY!

    Reply
    • Hi Eva, I chuckled at the idea of Toronto telling people what they can and can’t sell. Is there some reason for that? Are they trying to keep things “traditional” or something? It seems like, as you say, an epic fail to stick their noses in when vendors are just trying to make things better and healthier!

      The gruyère – it was quite greasy but in general I think the flavour just didn’t lend itself to these as well as another cheese would. It’s personal preference I suppose, but I’d definitely take a cheddar over a gruyère next time.

      Enjoy Canada day – do you have Friday off too, or just Monday?

      Reply
      • Hi Charles, I suspect the city limits vendors to foods they know won’t spoil too easily, a health and safety thing. We only had Monday off as a statutory holiday but we took Friday off as a vacation day to make it that much nicer.

        Reply
  4. That sounds like a lovely way to wander around Paris. I love how you think they do hotdogs too gourmet. The first time I heard of emanthal cheese slices was in Bridget Jones Diary. I don’t think it’s a common cheese down here (either that or I’ve been living under a rock). All I know from that book/movie is that they caused Bridget to be fairly over weight. xx

    Reply
    • Hi Charlie – they really are. I like my hotdogs simple – bread bun, sausage with a skin which “pops” when you bite into it, simple dressings, maybe something like shredded cabbage salad, onion or pickle. None of this gourmet nonsense – it’s a hotdog!!!

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  5. Great job on your crackers…gruyere sounds great in them. These are addictive little crackers…I love serving them to guests with a glass of wine before dinner.

    Reply
    • Thanks Karen – gruyère was ok, although as I mentioned I’d go for another cheese next time. Personal preference I suppose though.

      Reply
  6. I was never allowed to eat from food trucks and trolleys! India has some of the best street food…but no…never. Even in London, I never ate anything on the street (though thinking back on it, I have awful memories of the smell emanating from the burger trucks during Guy Fawkes bonfire nights…nasty)
    I have always wanted to eat street food! Denver does have a food truck scene but most of it downtown and I don’t feel the need to drive there just take eat from a truck!
    I remember this post from Barb, they looked great and so do yours. I don’t eat enough crackers…must rectify that…

    Nazneen

    Reply
    • Hi Nazneen, I think the thing is, in the US and now in France they’re doing decent food from trucks… one could almost describe it as gourmet stuff. In England they don’t really have the same scene. It tends to be a guy flipping greasy burgers and serving out strong brewed tea :D.

      Reply
  7. We still have those hot dog trucks outside Canadian Tire, which is giant hardware store chain in … Canada. I never have time to get one unfortunately.

    Is bull meat particularly tasty?

    I remember seeing these crackers and thinking that I should really try making crackers at least once in my life. :) They sound fairly easy to make in a food processor. I just need to commit to a box of rice krispies without the prospect of the marshmallow squares in my future.

    Reply
    • Bull meat – well, I wouldn’t really say you can really tasty anything in particular. By the time they’ve added all the spices it just basically tastes like any random sausage… just slightly stronger in flavour I suppose.

      Canadian Tire… did they used to sell car-tyres perchance?

      Reply
      • I wondered if the name was mostly a gimmick. :)

        I’m pretty sure that Canadian Tire started out as an automotive parts supply store. : )They’re famous for their ‘Canadian Tire money’ which is a customer loyalty program which was started back in 1958. You get a certain percentage of your purchase price back in the form of this ‘money’ which you can use for future purchases. Here’s some more info about this chain from wikipedia.

        “As Canada’s largest retailer, it is said that 90 percent of all Canadians live within a 15-minute drive of a Canadian Tire store; that nine out of ten adult Canadians shop at one at least twice a year; and that 40 percent of Canadians shop at Canadian Tire every week. There are 487 stores across Canada.

        (snip)

        The majority of stores operate in distinct categories of automotive parts, automotive service, tools and hardware, sporting goods, housewares, and seasonal.”

        Reply
        • Huh, those stats surprise me, for a country as big as Canada – there must be people living in the “wilderness” who aren’t close to a Canadian Tire, right? That bastion of Swedishness, IKEA, only has a couple of stores in the very north of Sweden, for example. It would take my parents-in-law a good 3 hours or so to drive to it.

  8. I’ve been saying for years that I would be making crackers soon and it’s yet to happen. I love a nighttime wander around Paris and would do it tonight if I could. :)

    Reply
    • Thanks Maureen – you should give it a go, they’re fun to make, and to eat :)

      Reply
  9. These thins would make a tasty (and probably addictive) appetizer! I love the idea of adding rosemary or other herbs.

    Reply
    • Hi Laura, yeah, I think rosemary must go perfectly with them. Too bad I was out of it this time :(

      Reply
  10. Glad to see the food truck craze is moving into your town! It hit us a couple of years ago and now we have 2 trucks that come to the park across the street from us every Tuesday night. It’s a blast. People from all over the neighborhood come over, but supper and hang out in the park visiting.
    Oh I love those cheese crisps! I was surprised to see the puffed rice in the recipe. What a great recipe. They look delicious!

    Reply
    • Hi MJ – small beginnings at least. Now the festival is over I suspect it will be months before they’re in my neck of the woods again but fingers crossed!!

      Reply
  11. Hi Charles! These look delicious. I remember them on Barb’s blog so I’m glad you refreshed my memory. They were on my list of things to make. Miss A would have a ball making these – especially with the rosemary added. We have finally planted some herbs outside and they’ve survived a week at my hands so far. The only thing I’m nervous about is Miss A knowing there’s food in the garden. She is DYING to pick some every day to make a “side dish.” I have yet to determine what “side dish” she wants to make as she won’t give me details, but I’m sure we’ll see it this summer sooner or later. And so cool you got to go visit a food truck fest. What a great idea! That’s on our list of things to do this summer. I’ve never stopped at a food truck, but think it’s high time. There’s too many around the city not to! Enjoy your weekend Charles. :)

    Reply
    • Haha, my mother used to have big herb bushes in her garden – I would eat rosemary and chives every time I went past… good times :).

      You’ll have to watch out for Miss. A and her creative “side dishes”… I used to make ice-cubes and dust them with raisins and coconut and then serve them to my mother (who would eat them!!). I used to think freezing water was so cool. It wasn’t until I froze half a pint of water, decorated it with coconut and served it to my mother that she decided we needed to have a little chat :D.

      Reply
  12. With the cheesy taste I would be nibbling on those endlessly

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  13. These crackers look excellent, Charles. Very original too, thanks to the puffed rice. I am sure they would be excellent with the beautiful sausages you have bought!
    I must say I don’t miss street/truck food in France, but then, unlike you, I love fresh baguette sandwiches bought in a good bakery… Whenever I go to France and walk a lot in a city (read: run like crazy from one shop to another), I love to have a good sandwich either walking (if I don’t have much time) or, preferably outside of a café with a nice glass of wine. Anyway, I think that truck food is a good idea as long as it sells good food…

    Reply
    • Hi Sissi, I’d happy take a hotdog any day over a monstrous baguette sandwich which is impossible to bite from because it’s too big, everything splurts out the side, and the fillings are just so unimaginative… emmental cheese, ham and cornichons? Pft… No way, hotdogs, mustard, crispy roasted onion… that’s where it’s at :D.

      Reply
      • Why do you say it’s monstruous? I have always seen between 5 and ten different fillings at every baker’s (but my favourite is jambon beurre especially if it’s real ham).
        As for the convenience, I am sure McDonald’s hamburger would be even more easier too eat. And at least you would be sure you have meat in the “meaty” part ;-)

        Reply
        • Hi Sissi, I think my dislike stems from a number of things:

          - It always seems so hard on the teeth and it’s too “crusty”. My front tooth is completely fake after an accident when I was 16. It’s cost me thousands of euros to fix over my lifetime and I always worry it’s gonna break when I’m biting into one of these huge sandwiches (plus you need to rip off the bites with your teeth… seems so inconvenient).

          - The fillings are always lacking at least one (what I consider to be) “vital” ingredient. Ham and butter is ok, but I feel like I need cheese (and not emmental) and then something “green”… cucumber, lettuce, something like this.

          - You can never have more than one or two “flat” fillings otherwise everything shoots out the side.

          When you look at a traditional “English” sandwich, the French versions just seem like poor substitutes. There really is no beating some good slices of an English loaf with something in the middle! ;)

  14. Ok, now I can understand! French baguette (the good one which has a crust and not chewy horrible stuff) may be dangerous for the teeth.
    I can also understand if in Britain you have much better sandwich fillings. Sandwich is British par excellence! Definitely not French.
    I like the ham+butter+cornichon+baguette not because it’s a sandwich but just because I would love them separately too… Each product. I’m sure British sandwiches are more imaginative.

    Reply
    • Well, I still find it “chewy”. Even if it’s good baguette… the base of it especially, it will be crusty (not chewy, but by the very definition you need to wrestle with it a bit to get a bite off). Actually, I usually eat my sandwiches “Swedish style” these days. I take the lid (the top piece of bread) off and eat it as an open sandwich. Easier to eat in many cases!

      Reply
      • Haha! I think we shall never agree about bread because for me the French good quality bread (slightly moist interior with big irregular holes – sign of correct long fermentation – and a thick crunchy, well baked crust) is the best bread in the world (even though I didn’t grow up with it, it was love at first bite, just like certain cheese varieties or lamb meat….). I like all the dense kinds of breads too (like German for example), but let’s say I could have them once or twice a week maximum and they go well for me only with certain things (herrings for example). I would never take an hour bus route to buy any of these (this is what I do sometimes only to get my French bread from my favourite baker; I think I told you this once).
        I have heard that many Asian people don’t like French bread either.
        I agree however about open sandwiches. I grew up eating “canapés” (the closed ones were only for school or travels) and I never make closed sandwiches at home because it’s just double carbs and double calories and less good interior ;-)

        Reply
        • Oh, I have nothing against the bread itself. I enjoy French bread, and I really appreciate the big uneven air holes inside, but it’s definitely not my favourite. I will try and make (and post) a recipe for a Swedish bread one day. It’s my favourite… very, very good! It amazes me though – for a country who loves bread, such as France, how can “pain de mie” be so popular. You can find it here with a “recette anglaise” which isn’t bad (well, it’s just sandwich bread really), but the French recipe stuff is just horrible… tastes so sweet!

  15. I am loving the food truck concept here… it is still limited to a few here and there but I hope they will increase in numbers and sell a huge range of food.

    I love the idea of making your own cheddar crackers… it’s a much nicer look on a cheese platter for sure.

    Reply
    • Thanks GG – they’re very fun (and super simple) to make :)

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  16. I really like these cheese thins and imagine myself eating this non-stop! I’ve seen several recipes before but your final “crackies” look by far the best and something I really want to eat. Interesting to see Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper and can’t wait to see how that will taste at the end!

    Reply
    • Hi Nami – they don’t last long, lol! I think mine vanished in just a couple of days. Dijon mustard and cayenne is a great flavour combo. The mustard is very complex and as long as you don’t add too much cayenne pepper then it provides the perfect background “kick”.

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  17. Charles, it’s popular because it’s convenient. Just like frozen pizza. Both are popular I think in whole Europe for this reason. They are also soft which apparently appeals to many people’s taste buds. I do like toast bread for certain uses and find its easy-to-stock side convenient, but I agree it’s not THE bread. On the other hand, people who eat traditional French good quality food would never buy toast bread in supermarkets (only at the baker’s and only for breakfast toast with butter+jam/honey). I know several persons like this in my family (some never buy it at the baker’s either). I have heard many French people say it’s not real bread (even those who buy it for the convenience: no breadcrumbs and easy to eat on a trip, for ex.). Since the French use of bread is to serve it as a company to every meal, toast bread cannot really play this role (apart from breakfast).
    Unfortunately, more and more people start living only on soft, sweetish toast bread, precooked frozen dishes, etc.. According to scientists people have never eaten such hygienic food in France, but they have never eaten so badly either… .

    Reply
    • I heard they’re mandating restaurants to label dishes made “fresh” as “Fait Maison” now, so people know what is made fresh and what is just “bought in” from outside… that’s a great step I think, because I think a huge amount of stuff isn’t actually made fresh here sadly.

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  18. Mmm, cheese thins, goodness they sound good! Love the Dijon & Cayenne in there too. That food stall / truck festival sounds great! I used to live in London and work in Camden- which has an amazing array of street food. Every lunchtime was a delight wandering around and deciding which types of cuisine to go for. Everything you could think of was available. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy. I think it might be a while before this culture makes it’s way out here to Gascony…but I can live in hope :)

    Reply
    • Hi Anneli – what a change… from Camden to Gascony! On the one hand it’s probably blissfully quiet and peaceful down there, but on the other… boy oh boy, I bet you miss some things sometimes!

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  19. I just suspect that it’s Brussels :(
    And the Dutch fear for all that’s not packaged!
    Oh woe is me :)

    Reply
    • Oh no doubt – wasn’t it the good old EU Parliament which was trying to mandate exactly how curvy a banana should (or should not) be? Madness!

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  20. Charles,
    Thanks so much for the shout out! It has absolutely thrilled Raymond to learn that his cheese crackies have been made in France…as my mom gave him a call to let him know. I’m sorry that it has taken me a few days to get on here and thank you. I was away on business last week and I’ve been flat out exhausted ever since. I’m afraid that my blogging has been put on hold for a little while.:( You’ll have to try these with cheddar some time as I think it works really well. I liked them better the second time that I made them when I made them a little thinner as well. Hope your summer is off to a good start. We’ve been racing around getting ready for the first day of camp tomorrow. Thanks to Saskia and Sawsan (who have posted on this idea) the girls have cute little bento boxes filled with a variety of treats/dishes. Take care.

    Reply
    • Hi Barb – I’m glad Raymond got to hear of it! I hope I too have some of my recipes made by spry young things halfway around the globe when I’m older! Will definitely try them with cheddar. I also want to try them with that cheese I mentioned on your blog in the original post – the Swedish one. I think they’d be lovely with that!

      Take it easy – hope to see you back in the blogosphere soon :)

      Reply
  21. Did you say poutine? I didn’t think it was possible to resist such a culinary delight! ;o). The slow coming of food trucks to France reminds me of the parallel introduction in Montreal. I know and appreciate that opinions vary widely on these things but my own view is that I’m a-okay without them. I love my poutine like any other self-respecting French Canadian ;-) but Paris and Montreal are far too beautiful to be congested with cheesy junk trucks (sorry, like I said, my own view).

    Charles, your crackers sound sublime! Cayenne *and* dijon? Wowza! That’ll cure whatever ails you. Love the rice in these too… what an intriguing and delightful recipe – I think I have to give them a try!

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly – I would love to try poutine… it sounds absolutely delicious… one day hopefully. You know, the trucks they had here were actually surprisingly “un-greasy”. They had some fancy burger trucks of course, but they also had a dim-sum truck, Italian food trucks, selling home-made pasta and so forth. It definitely wasn’t uniquely a junk fest!

      Reply
  22. Yes, Charles, I agree–Cheddar rather than Gruyere. A nice medium or sharp. The crackers are gorgeous and the perfect base for so many tasty bits.

    Reply
    • Hi Jean – sorry, I completely forgot to reply! Will definitely be adding cheddar next time – can’t wait… going to add rosemary in next time too, yum!

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  23. street food and france? you ll find street food in Guadeloupe or go to the beach and you ll here “chichi and beignet” everywhere.
    Cheese crackers yum, I d go crazy for those while watching my movie tonight. =D

    Reply
    • They’re really good Helene – I definitely recommend giving them a try :)

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    • They’re the kind of thing that is rather difficult to practise “self-restraint” with, lol :D

      Reply