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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Whipping up a DIY version of a packaged treat can be such fun, and when you’re gluten-free, it’s especially satisfying. Most of the packaged cookies, crackers, and snack cakes we remember from childhood simply aren’t available without gluten. If we want to enjoy them again, or share them with gluten-free children, we must take matters into our own hands.
I am pleased to report that these Ritz Bits-style mini cheese cracker sandwiches are a dead ringer for the real thing. Flaky and buttery, the crispy crackers are just as lovely as you remember Ritz crackers to be. For the smooth and creamy cheese filling, you can really use any semi-hard cheese; I went with Asiago because it’s a favorite of mine for its deep, rich flavor.
Makes about 80 mini sandwiches
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped and chilled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water, with ice added
8 ounces Asiago cheese, cut into a large dice
6 ounces (1/2 can) evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch (or another starch, such as arrowroot or potato starch)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a couple rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, baking powder, sugar, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and whisk to combine well. Add the chopped and chilled butter to the dry ingredients, toss to coat, and cut the butter until the mixture resembles small pebbles.
Add the vegetable oil and stir to combine. Discard the ice and add the water a bit at a time, stirring constantly until the dough begins to come together. You may not need all the water. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, place between two large sheets of unbleached parchment paper, and roll until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Using a fluted 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out shapes. With a toothpick, poke a couple holes in each cracker to help them rise.
Place the shapes about 1 inch apart from one another on the prepared baking sheets, brush the crackers lightly with water, and sprinkle with the remaining kosher salt.
Place the baking sheets, one sheet at a time, in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until just beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and allow the crackers to cool completely.
In a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan, place the Asiago cheese and evaporated milk. Cook, whisking frequently, over medium-high heat, until the cheese is completely melted. Add the cornstarch, and whisk to combine well. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the butter until it is melted. The cheese will be somewhat thick, but still easily pourable. Transfer the cheese mixture to a medium heat-safe bowl, and allow to sit at room temperature until cool, about 10 minutes.
Once the cheese mixture is cool, place it in a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized plain piping tip. Turn half of the cooled mini Ritz crackers upside down. Pipe about 1/4 teaspoon of cheese filling onto the underside of those crackers. Top each with another cracker, right-side up, to close each sandwich.
Photos by Nicole Hunn