How I turned my seriously tart sourdough starter into fantastic holiday crackers

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John Lehndorff

I named it KimChee after the friend who shared the sourdough starter which now lurks in a Mason jar in the refrigerator. KimChee has been useful as I’ve crafted a few tasty breads, waffles, and goodies. A year later, like an annoying adolescent, my sourdough starter insists on being fed and keeps on growing. When it outgrows the jar I have to find something to do with it because I hate throwing away anything edible.  

The latest and greatest use I’ve found for my starter (besides making cornbread) is crackers. I’ve made a world of baked goods over the years, but somehow had never attempted crackers. They always seemed, uh, complicated. It turns out that making crackers is absurdly easy and very impressive when you serve them. They’re also easy to tweak with a variety of additions and toppings, including herbs, grated cheese, seeds, and nuts to suit any taste. 

The following recipe is a tweaked and re-tweaked version of a King Arthur Flour Co. recipe. It makes dozens of crackers depending on the size and shape. The reality is that each sourdough starter is unique—some are thicker, and others more liquid. You will need to adjust the recipe. You can always bake a small test batch and see how they taste. 

Sourdough Starter Crackers

1 cup (approx.) flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (approx.) sourdough starter

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or plant-based substitute), room temperature

About 3 tablespoons minced dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, etc.) and/or grated Parmesan

Oil (olive, sesame or canola)

Dry toppings: Salt (kosher or sea), dried garlic, sesame seeds, onion flakes, chile flakes, caraway seeds, or pepitas

Directions: Mix flour, salt, sourdough starter, butter, and herbs until you have a smooth dough. Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a slab or roll. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour until the dough is firm. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour rolling pin, surface, and dough to keep it from sticking, or roll it out in a plastic bag.

Roll the dough out very thinly and place on a nonstick baking sheet. Brush both sides very lightly with oil and sprinkle on salt or toppings. Then cut the dough into squares of the desired size. Prick each cracker with the tines of a fork. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan once to get even baking. If you like extra crisp crackers, leave the pan in the oven longer but check it often to avoid burning. Remove from oven, cool and serve. Crackers freeze well for future use.

Another roadfood attraction

This is what can happen when you tumble down the pimento cheese spread rabbit hole on the Internet. It can get messy. I only discovered this culinary subculture existed when I was assigned to write about pimento cheese sandwiches at the Master’s for a golf magazine.

The result was an epic taste test of half a dozen pimento cheese spreads. Who knew there were so many varieties and variations of the Southern specialty available in the Denver-Boulder area? I had believed they would all taste the same—I was wrong. It also turns out that this combo of shredded cheddar, mayo, pimento peppers and cream cheese can be totally crave-worthy. 

You can whip up your own pimento cheese spread in a few minutes and save some dollars using one of the many online recipes.  

If you need to keep it convenient, the following list includes most of the commercial pimento cheese available in refrigerated plastic deli containers at area supermarkets. Some are spicier, some sweeter, some use more mayo or bigger cheese shreds. Naturally, the ones made with the best sharp cheddar cheeses and other ingredients taste the best and cost the most. Think of the two “avoid” spreads on the end of the list as Cheez Whiz imitations of what pimento cheese spread should taste like. 

In order of preference: 

  1. Disco Jim’s Pimento Cheese Spread (Marczyk Fine Foods)
  2. Trader Joe’s Pimento Cheese Dip (Trader Joe’s)
  3. Kroger Private Selection Pimento Cheese (King Soopers)
  4. Palmetto Cheese Spread (King Soopers)
  5. Avoid:Price’s Pimento Cheese Spread (Wal-Mart) 
  6. Avoid: Kraft Pimento Cheese Spread (everywhere)

Culinary calendar 

After being postponed because of the pandemic, the 25th Annual Lafayette Oatmeal Festival will finally take place January 9 in Lafayette. Sponsored by Quaker Oats, the heartwarming event features a traditional hot oatmeal breakfast with tons of toppings at The Gatehouse, 1055 S. 112th Street, and a Virtual 5K Walk/Run. Advance breakfast tickets: lafayettecolorado.com 

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