photograph by Matt Hulsman

It’s just not a Southern party if there’s not a tray of something tasty spooned over a block of cream cheese. What puts this particular combo over the top are the irresistible salty, sharp, ever-so-slightly spicy, bite-size crackers known as cheese coins. There’s no tastier tidbit to ferry that smear of cream cheese and a dab of pepper jelly from a festive cocktail napkin to our lips. The recipe makes about 60 coins, but odds are that at least half of them will never make it to the table, gobbled instead straight off the baking sheet. Better double up.

 

Yield: 5 dozen.

8 ounces extra-sharp yellow Cheddar cheese
4 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
6 tablespoons ice-cold water
1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese at room temperature (for serving)
1 (8-ounce) jar pepper jelly (for serving)

Shred the cheese on the large holes of a box grater or with the shredding dish of a food processor. Place the cheese, flour, cornstarch, salt, cayenne, and paprika in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the cubes of butter over the cheese mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture and pulse until clumps begin to form.

Pour onto a surface lined with parchment paper or waxed paper, and gather into a ball. Flatten to a disc, cover with a second sheet of parchment, and roll to a ¼-inch thickness. Stamp out rounds with a 1½-inch cutter. Gather and roll the scraps and stamp out rounds until all of the dough is used.

Arrange the rounds on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Position oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°. Bake the coins until they are just set and light golden brown around the edges, 22 to 25 minutes. Do not overbake. Set the pans on wire racks and let stand until coins are cool. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

To serve, unwrap the cream cheese and place on a serving tray. Spoon pepper jelly over the top of the cream cheese or into a bowl. Serve alongside the cheese coins.

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Sheri Castle hails from Watauga County, but came down off the mountain to go to Carolina and now lives in Fearrington Village. She is a writer, recipe developer, cooking teacher, and popular public speaker. She is fueled by mountains, excellent bourbon, farmers’ markets, and searching for the right word. Sheri believes that stories happen only to those who can tell them. Check her out at shericastle.com.

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