Why Make Cookies/Crackers from Scratch?

Yesterday I made a fruit/cheese pie. I didn’t know what I was doing, as I had no recipe per se. My pie is ricotta, fruit, fruit syrup (the failed apple/cherry jam, remember that? Here’s a (link)).

It’s good!

What is disappointing is the crust. The recipe I used as an inspiration had a vanilla wafer crust, made like a graham cracker crust. A few months ago I had a yen for s’mores, so bought all the ingredients, including the “name brand” graham crackers. The crackers were “off,” and when I looked at the package in detail realized that some other company had “improved” the cracker. I’d forgotten about that when I bought the vanilla wafers yesterday.

I love vanilla wafers. Because of that, I rarely buy them. I’ve been known, when really depressed, to eat an entire box with cups of hot milk. They’re dangerous, for me. So, yesterday I went from the small market in the next town (only had generic vanilla wafers) to the C store (had a hole where the vanilla wafers should have been) to the market, where I bought, with satisfaction, that yellow box.

When I got home of course, I had to sample. They tasted funny — then I looked at the box, and found that they weren’t produced by Nabisco anymore, but were Nabisco brand, made by another company.

My reaction was three-fold — 1) I will absolutely start throughly reading boxes of cookies and crackers before I buy them. 2)I will avoid everything labeled “Nabisco.” 3)I looked in a cookbook (Better Than Store Bought) where I’d looked after the graham cracker incident, and was relieved to see that there’s a vanilla wafter recipe too.

I’m going to make them from scratch.

There’s nothing wrong with the graham crackers or vanilla wafers, but they’re different. To my taste whatever they’ve changed hasn’t improved them.

I have the same sort of problem with nearly all cake mixes. The results taste like chemical fluff to me, not cake. The only brand I’ve found which I like is Dr. Oetker, so in my pantry you’ll find, almost always, one box of Dr O’s vanilla cake mix. I can add chocolate or whatever to it if I want, but the basic cake is good. I gave up on Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines and . . .  because every one I tried tasted chemically to me.

Cake, like cookies and sweet crackers are not staples here, so my changed habits are not going to put “Nabisco” or “Betty Crocker” et al out of business.

I find it ironic though, that the convenience foods I would like to count on I can’t. And, while others are eating a lot more prefab entrees, we almost always eat scratch foods these days. The exceptions were baked goods, jams/jellies/preserves, and rice mixes.

Good bread became too expensive a while back, so we started baking our own. It seems sweet baked goods are next on the list. Savory rather than sweet crackers are also likely to join the list  of DIY foods here — ever read the per lb price for a box of crackers? It’s more than the price of ground beef in many cases! I always thought my cooking life would go the other way: in my youth and middle age, when I had the vigor to do so, I’d  do “from scratch” cooking, then use mixes in my “dotage.”  Guess not.

With the warning about graham cracker/vanilla wafers in mind, here’s the recipe for my Summer Fruit & Cheese Pie. Easy peasy.

Make (or buy) a sweet cracker/cookie crust in the usual way (butter/crumbs). Put it in the fridge to chill.

Clean, cut, pit, etc. about 1C sweet cherries. Repeat with about the same amount of strawberries. (The strawberries I used were just starting to be “ugly” in that some of them were soft but not slimy or black.) You want the fruit to be small cut, not minced, but not halved necessarily either.

Heat about 1/4C syrup  so that it’s runny. (I used my failed apple/cherry jam. You could probably use melted apricot jam or honey or maple syrup?). Let cool slightly. (Don’t cook the cheese.)This is not super-sweet like many baked goods/desserts. If you have kids or are a total sugar hound, you’ll probably want to add more syrup than I did.

I put the cooked fruit and syrup in the mix and thought that was a mistake, yesterday, when I tasted it, as the previously cooked fruit had a different consistency from the other fruit. Today I can’t tell the difference between the previously cooked fruit and the fruit which was added raw. Your mileage may vary.

Open a 1 lb package of part-skim ricotta. Put into a bowl, stir. Then stir in the prepared raw fruit. Finally, add the cooled fruit & syrup.  Store in fridge in between steps, if needed because of the cheese! Lastly, put the fruit mix into the chilled pie crust and pack it down firmly. Invert another pie pan over the top as a lid and put in the fridge over night or for several hours. (I don’t use plastic wrap.)

Needs to be kept in the fridge, but enjoy!




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