When I was a kid, there was one homemade goodie that always kicked off the holiday season: Mom's Cayenne Pepper Wafers. A bit too spicy for a young palate, these crackers grew on me as a teenager. Mom often brought a tin of these when she visited me at college, and she still does when she comes to visit Wyoming.
These crackers are the perfect snack with a glass of wine, red or white, a fact I failed to grasp when I was younger. Deep gruyere flavor, nutty pecan texture, and that unmistakable bite of cayenne make for a tasty cracker. Eaten unadorned, they are simple, homespun goodness.
Cayenne pepper wafers will keep in a tin for weeks, providing you with last-minute hostess gifts throughout the holidays. That is, if you can keep your family from polishing them off; apparently my youngsters have no aversion to a healthy dose of cayenne.
Mom's cayenne pepper wafers
- 1/2 pound gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted (please don't skip the sifting)
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
- Cream the cheese with the butter by hand or with a mixer.
- Sift the flour. Add the salt and cayenne pepper with a whisk.
- Add flour to the cheese/butter mixture.
- Add nuts, and mix until the dough starts to come together.
- Transfer the dough to the countertop. Divide into two piles, and press together to form a ball. If the dough is too dry, add 1 tsp. water to help it come together.
- Shape each ball of dough into a 1 1/2 inch diameter log.
- Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper, and chill for at least one hour. Can be left to chill overnight.
- Slice the logs into 1/4 inch thick crackers.
- Bake at 350 degrees F. on a cookie sheet, lined with a Silpat mat if you have one, for 20 minutes. Check for doneness after 15 minutes. The bottoms should be just getting toasty brown when they are done.
- Let "cook" for a few more minutes on the cookie sheet after you pull it out of the oven. Transfer to a cooling rack. If you are planning on giving these away as a gift, hide them from your family (and yourself).