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Appetizers & Snacks

Holiday Baking: Manchego Cheese Wafers

In the food magazine world, we talk a lot about “recipe development.” I like that “developing” is distinct from “inventing” or “creating.” Case in point: Some impromptu recipe tweaking when I wanted to make Cheddar cheese wafers, a Southern classic I adore but wanted to make a little fancier.

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Manchego Cheese Wafers, ready to go in the oven

In the food magazine world, when someone comes up with a new recipe, the term used is “recipe development.” I like the expression a lot because “developing” is distinct from “inventing” or “creating.” Most recipes are, in fact, based on previous recipes, dishes other cooks and chefs have made … and it is a rare occasion indeed when a recipe developer comes up with something that has never (apparently) been done before. And so, anybody and everybody can be a recipe developer. All it takes is a little imagination.

Case in point: Some impromptu recipe tweaking I did while doing my holiday baking. I wanted to make Cheddar cheese wafers, a Southern classic I absolutely adore, but I wanted to make them a little more, well, fancy. Gourmet. Unusual. Whatever. The original recipe is simple: butter, Cheddar, flour, cayenne pepper, and Rice Krispies. Roll into balls, flatten into rounds, top with a pecan, and bake until golden.

I had a huge chunk of Manchego cheese that needed to be used up, so I decided my cheese wafers were going to be Manchego this year. That shifted the flavor palette from Southern to Spanish, so I switched out the cayenne pepper for some Espelette pepper powder from the Basque country. I rolled the dough between two sheets of wax paper and cut it with fluted cutters to save time, skipped the pecans and instead topped the creations with pumpkin seeds. And there it was, a whole “new” recipe. I didn’t test it with non-dairy ingredients, but I bet it would work as a vegan hors d’oeuvre as well. Here it is for you to try:

Manchego Cheese Wafers

Makes about 50 wafers

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened

2 tsp. Espelette pepper powder or Aleppo pepper powder

1 tsp. salt

2 cups (8 oz.) grated Manchego cheese

1½ cups flour

1 cup Rice Krispies

Raw pumpkin seeds, for garinsh

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat together butter, pepper powder, and salt with electric mixer until smooth and butter begins to turn pale orange. Beat in cheese until creamy, then beat in flour. Stir in Rice Krispies.

2. Press dough into ball, then flatten into disk. Place disk between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper, and roll to 1/3-inch thickness with rolling pin.

3. Cut dough into 1 to 1½-inch circles with round cutter. Place wafers on ungreased baking sheet, and top each with 1 pumpkin seed. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges and bottoms begin to turn golden. Cool on wire rack.