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Whenever I run into savory little cheese cookies someone’s served with a glass of wine, I’m happy indeed.  These days, they’re usually they’re made with Parmigiano-Reggiano, but older food memories include homemade crispy little cheddar crackers that were just as good with beer as with wine.  Back in the day, these were called “Cheese Pennies” and while they were usually simply round, occasionally a creative baker would even roll them out and cut them out into shapes (suits, of course) for bridge club.

Things that grow together go together

is the saying–Cheddar and Beer being two things the British do very well and Parmigiano-Reggiano and Wine being two things the Italians do just superbly. So, whichever way you roll –to coin a phrase –these savory bits are luscious.

Checking through my top choice cookbooks for such recipes (and tooling around the internet, of course) showed me there’re just as many varieties of not-sweet cookies as there are baking (or other) books on my cookbook shelves.

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my cookbook shelves

None of them seemed exactly of what I’d been dreaming, which included sage, as sage still sat in a glass on my counter.  But my sage wasn’t dry enough to grind into a powder (I wanted the cookies to be rolled in nuts mixed with herbs), and I had to forage around on the dry herb shelf until I found not ground sage, but ground rosemary. (I guess all of the ground sage went into the Thanksgiving stuffing.) Once I’d found the rosemary, I was on a roll. (Ok, I’ll stop.)

Being brave, I chose a medium oven temperature and cranked her up in anticipation. I went over the ingredients for several cookies and saw that there were about 3 basic ways to make them, perhaps 4.  A two-cheese cookie called (none had two cheeses that I had seen), and a little more butter than really necessary might be required for thorough browning. Spices would create just the right edge (season everything is my motto) and, after measuring the ingredients, the food processor was soon whirring away.

I liked the method of dividing, rolling, and slicing the dough  (rather than rolling balls); it also proved expedient and soon there were 3 smooth 9 x 1.5-inch rolls of dough ready for the oven. They cut  easily with a serrated knife with no chilling at all.  In the oven  for somewhere around 18 or 19 minutes (I admittedly lost track), they were crispy, browned around the edges, and just as herby-cheesy as I’d dreamed.

My best Test-Taster, Dave, ate them and he confirmed I had achieved success. He’s my strongest supporter, my very able helper, grill man, and sous chef always, so I’m not always sure whether or not to trust his response. So I had a couple myself to make sure they were ok. They were more than ok; they were just too addictive…

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Here he is last Sunday washing dishes after Dinner on the Grounds at church and (below) eating the chili lunch I cooked with a friend for Habitat for Humanity after a long morning of putting in French drains.

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Thank goodness most of them are going to be snarfed at an opening reception for an art show… but I know I’ll make them again. And again.  Like next week for Christa and Jim.  And maybe again when Emily comes home or when we go see Sean, Jami, Rhyan, and Piper.  After all, it’ll be Christmas, right? I might need to work on a Gluten, Butter, Egg, and Nut-Free version for Piper!

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So if you’ve got the holiday baking bug, but want something else…maybe something without sugar or glitz…try my shortbreads. They go together in a flash, are adaptable –think Gruyere, thyme, and pecans– are a fine nibble with a glass of wine OR beer.  I didn’t go this route, but I think they’d work with a mixer, too, though I’d then make them with softened butter.  My mother’s friends never had a food processor and their Cheese Pennies came out just fine with a pastry blender or two knives. Try this:

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before baking

TWO-CHEESE WALNUT AND ROSEMARY SHORTBREAD COOKIES

makes about 50 2-inch savory cookies

Leave off the nuts if they’re bothersome, but then be sure to add the ground rosemary to the flour mixture.

  • 1 cup each:  grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and grated Cheddar cheeses (4 oz ea.)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose, white unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Generous pinch ground Cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped or ground walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

  1. Pulse together the cheeses, flour, pepper, salt, and Cayenne in a food processor.
  2. Place pieces of cold butter into the work bowl and, pulsing, cut in until well combined.
  3. Turn machine on and let run until the dough has come together in a ball. (If by chance it’s too dry to come together, pulse in a tablespoon of milk at a time until it holds together.)
  4. Remove dough carefully from work bowl onto a lightly floured board or counter. Gather dough into a ball and pat into an even oval. Cut the dough into three pieces.  Roll each piece into a log about 9″x1 1/2″.
  5. Using a serrated knife, cut each log into 1/3-inch pieces.  You should get 16-18 pieces from each log.
  6. Beat egg whites with 2 teaspoons water and place in a shallow bowl. Place nuts in another shallow bowl alongside.
  7. Dip just one side of each 1/3-inch “coin” lightly into the egg white mixture and then more firmly into the nuts so that nuts adhere only to one side.. Place the coins nut side up onto parchment-lined (or lightly greased) baking sheets about an inch apart.
  8. Bake in the center of the oven approximately 18 minutes or until crispy and just golden.  Remove and let cool on sheets a few minutes and then, using a sharp-bladed spatula, remove each cookie to a cooling rack.  Repeat with remaining two sheets. Store airtight for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 2 months.

{printable recipe}

Interested in more savory cookies?  Check this out.  (It turns out there’s nothing new under the sun after all!)

Sing a new song; bake a savory cookie,

Alyce