When Marx Foods recently contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in creating a recipe using dried chilies for a contest they’re hosting I jumped at the chance. Seriously, their inquiry couldn’t have come at a better time. I love a good cooking challenge and I haven’t had one in what seems like forever. Suddenly I felt as if I was a contestant on Master Chef, armed with a variety of somewhat unfamiliar ingredients, and being challenged to create an original and winning recipe with them.
When I opened the package from Marx Foods I found six smaller packages of beautifully colored dried peppers to examine. Each donning a unique appearance, scent and flavor. I immediately realized that not all chilies are created equal.
My mind was in a whirl. The closest thing I’ve ever used in the dried chili department are red pepper flakes. I know it sounds pathetic, and it is…
I weighed many choices before I finally settled on a recipe idea. This was no easy feat. Do you realize the possibilities for using dried chilies in recipes is endless? In creating this recipe I decided to stick to what I’m comfortable with – baking. Not a sweet this time, but a savory and spicy treat.
And my recipe??? Drum roll please…
Kickin Habanero Cheese Crackers
Once I decided on my recipe I then had to decide on the pepper I was going to use. I had to choose between the Aji Amarillo, Mulato, Cascabel, Japones, Puya, and Habanero chilies that were sent to me. A great resource for deciding on which pepper to use can be found right at Marx Foods. It’s called the Scoville Scale. This scale gives you a heat index for each pepper along with a flavor profile. The Scoville Scale has been around since 1912.
I have to admit I didn’t use the scale though – I just picked the pepper that I was the most attracted to at the time.
The habanero packs a little more heat than some of the other chilies so I proceeded with caution when applying it to my recipe. I didn’t want the pepper to overpower the rest of the great flavors in the crackers.
The first thing I did to start preparing my dried pepper for my recipe was take a sharp knife and cut one of the chilies in half. I then removed the seeds and ribs of the chili and chopped it into small flakes. If you need help learning the techniques for preparing chilies you can find that information at Marx Foods Chili Pepper Recipes and Techniques.
One small habanero produced about 1/2 teaspoon of pepper flakes. I decided to use 1/4 of a teaspoon of the pepper flakes in the recipe so I put the left over pepper into a small airtight container for later use.
Recipe for Kickin Habanero Cheese Crackers
1 1/2 c . grated extra sharp cheddar cheese (room temperature)
1/4 c. grated jalapeno pepper jack cheese (room temperature)
1/2 c. butter (room temperature)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. dried habanero chili flakes
dash of nutmeg
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large metal cookie sheets with parchment paper, or use 3 ungreased pizza stones.
In a large bowl, add cheese and butter; beat with electric mixer until the cheese and butter are well blended. Stir in salt, onion powder, habanero flakes, nutmeg, cornmeal and flour; mix thoroughly by hand.
On a lightly floured cutting board, divide the dough in half. Roll each dough into equal rectangular shapes. Using a crinkle cutter or sharp knife, slice dough into cracker shapes and place on cookie sheets or pizza stones.
Bake for approximately 10 minutes on metal cookie sheets, and 15 minutes on pizza stones. Keep close watch, bottoms of crackers should be light brown. Transfer to cooling rack. Once cool, store in airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 48 crackers.
Now, I have just one more suggestion for these little gems. Put a small dollop of (whipped) cream cheese and some pepper jelly on top to really turn things up a notch.
These crackers make great appetizers and pair well with your favorite bottle of wine, or serve them with a warm bowl of tomato soup. They have a slight kick, but it’s not the kind of kick that you should be intimidated by. I’m not a fan of hot and super spicy foods and these are neither, but if you are a fan, don’t be afraid to increase the habanero to satisfy your heat index.
Please drop over to Marx Foods and vote for Kickin Habanero Cheese Crackers. Voting will take place between September 12th and 16th.
In the future I will be creating more recipes using some of the peppers I received from Marx Foods – so please stay tuned…