These are so full of cheesy goodness, they might ruin the store bought version. Warning out of the way, let us dig into this yummy american snack!
Depending on how you look at it, this is a three or five ingredient recipe. You need a block of cheese (ungrated), half a stick of butter (softened), a cup of flour, a big pinch of salt, and a few tablespoons of ice water.
To make the recipe super easy (and not a kitchen workout), skip the rolling pin and use a pasta roller!
The first time I made these was a few years ago and I swore I would never do this again. The cheese its tasted super yummy BUT the dough rolling process took me literally hours (note: using a rolling pin is not a strong skill of mine 😂 ) Then when I baked them I found out I did not have my dough rolled thin enough to get a crunchy fully baked cheese it! It was so frustrating!
More recently (after I learned how to make pasta dough using my electric pasta roller) I started thinking about this recipe again and wondered, can I use this dough in the pasta roller and save myself the dough rolling process? Answer: YES!!! This cheesy goodness of a dough is a bit of a harder dough (more like pie dough than cookie dough) which I think is why this hack worked so well! I have a future filled with these extra cheesy bites of goodness 😋
Cheese: Grate your block of cheese! Pre-grated cheese has extra ingredients added to prevent the cheese from sticking together. I do want the cheese to stick together (along with the other ingredients) so I strongly recommend grating you own cheese for this recipe. I also recommend using your favorites as this is the main flavor component. I love extra sharp cheddar, it is super cheese, slightly nutty, and has an extra punch of goodness. Not sponsored, but if you need a recommendation Tillamook Extra Sharp White Cheddar is THE BEST!
Butter: I use unsalted (just what I always buy) and left it on the counter for a few hours to ensure it was fully softened. This is a two fold tip: the softened butter mixes in with the cheese completely and quite easily as well as using fully softened saves some wear and tear on your stand mixer.
Flour: I used all purpose flour. This is just what I tend to keep around. I am not one to have all the specialty flours around all the time. I find this works quite well for many recipes, but I am equally sure bread flour or 00 flour will work just as well if that is what you have in your pantry. I prefer to sift my flour just to ensure no clumps. Check out the video ~ 3:35 to see how I do this without making a mess.
Salt: I used a big pinch of kosher salt. Iodized salt is smaller granules and comes across as more salty, so if this is what you use, maybe start with a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon.
Ice water: obviously just ice and water. Just as with pie dough, the coldness of the water helps the dough combine. I dont really question it because it works.
The main reason you are here: How to make these!
Add both your grated cheese of choice and your softened butter to your stand mixer and cream these together using the flat paddle attachment on a low speed. This will take a few minutes and you will know you are ready to add the flour when the cheese and butter combo starts to look like a cheese ball consistency. Have a spatula/scraper handy to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
I add the flour in approximate halves. I also add the salt with the first half of the flour. I do scrape down the bowl during this process because I want a really smooth and super combined homogeneous mixture. After adding the second half of flour I do increase the speed. I find this helps better incorporate the flour into the cheese/butter mixture. We want to blend the flour in until all of the mixture is crumbly and about the size of small peas.
Next, switch the flat paddle for a dough hook. On a low speed I add the ice water one tablespoon at a time. I usually end up adding three or four tablespoons, and I think the difference is how much moisture the cheese is bringing. A cheese that has been aged longer will have less moisture/stronger cheese flavor and might need a bit of extra water to bring the dough together.
Once combined, I dump the dough mixture onto a rolling mat and give it a quick kneed. The dough needs some time to chill so I wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it to chill for at least half an hour.
Chilling the dough does two things for us: First, it allows the flour more time to incorporate with the cheese and butter which will make rolling the dough a smoother process. Second, the in the recipe being cold help prevent the cheese it from spreading/melting in the oven. The edges of the cheese it bake first setting the shape and the middles puff up just a bit instead of spreading out.
To roll out our dough after being chilled, use small sections. I divided my dough into quarters and kept the unrolled dough wrapped up in the plastic. I started with a floured surface and hand smooshed the dough a bit into a pancake like shape just so I could send it thru the pasta roller. The pasta roller is doing two things for us: kneading and rolling. This is why it saved me SOOO much time. But it isnt a one shot magic. I sent each handful of dough thru the pasta roller four or five time, folding it each time. This also helped me get the dough into a even rectangle shape. I am using the KitchenAid attachment and pressed the dough on setting one (the thickest setting on my pasta roller).
Once satisfied with the shape, I used my bench scraper and pizza cutter to carefully measure/cut the dough into bite size pieces. My bench scraper has a six inch ruler on it (hence why I used it) but of course you can always use a standard ruler. If you use a pizza cutter on a rolling mat like me, be careful you dont use too much force. The pizza cutter is sharper than other options for the same job such as a pastry wheel and of course you do not want to cut into your work surface.
Now our cut dough looks like, well, a piece of sliced cheese. This next bit is optional, but I think using the back side of a kebob (the non pointy side) gives us the quintessential cheese it look. And as an added bonus, I find the wooded kebab has just enough gripping power to help us move the individual cheese it dough pieces to the silpat. Only tip I have for placement is to not let the cheese its tough each other. We want them to puff up, not become one massive cheese it.
Baking: I bake these at 375° for 15-17 minutes. I have two silpat mats and one half sheet pan (12×17 inches). In my experience, the first batch will be 17 minutes and the following batches will be 15 minutes because the sheet pan is already warm.
Tip: USE A KITCHEN TIMER!
Slightly overbaked (not burned) cheese its are super yummy because the cheese gets a bit extra toasty, but underbaked cheese its are just disappointing. It is hard to visually tell when they are done because at 15 minutes they are still a little soft coming out of the oven then harden up a bit as they cool.
Now the taste test: YUM! These bake up beautifully! Mine are just a bit thicker than a store bought Cheez-It® but I swear they have sooooo much extra cheesy flavor! They have a lovely crunch to them and store just fine unrefrigerated in an air tight container for a few weeks. This super batch though will rarely last more than a few days, but I purposely set a few to the side and tried them on day 21 and they are still super tasty but with maybe slightly less crunch.
Homemade Cheese Its
- 8 ounces block cheese, grated
- 2 ounces butter, softened (half a stick)
- 1 cup flour, sifted
- Kosher Salt ~1 Tablespoon (I used a generous finger pinch)
- 3+ Tablespoons Ice water, just until the dough comes together
- Gather and prepare all your ingredients, do not start until the butter is fully softened. Grate the cheese
- Combine grated cheese and softened butter in stand mixer using a flat paddle and cream together for several minutes or until it looks like a cheese ball
- Add first half of sifted flour and the salt, mix until crumbly and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add remaining flour and increase the speed just a bit until butter/cheese mixture is combined with flour and this combo resembles the shape of small peas
- Switch flat paddle for dough hook and on the lowest speed add ice water one tablespoon at a time until the mixture starts to resemble a dough
- Dump dough onto a floured work surface and knead just until the remaining crumbles incorporate into the dough. Wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes
- Divide dough (keeping un worked dough wrapped in plastic) and roll out. I recommend using a pasta roller to save time. I use a KitchenAid pasta roller attachment and used the thickest setting. If using a rolling pin (or wine bottle in a pinch) be extra diligent that your dough is an even thickness.
- Cut the flattened dough into bite size cheese it pieces. I used a pizza cutter (gently) and the measurements on my bench scraper but a regular ruler/straight edge or pastry cutter should work well also.
- Optional – I used the non pointy end of a wooden skewer to ‘punch’ a hole in the center of the cheese it for the quintessential Cheez-It® look. This doubled as an easy way to move the individual cheese its from my work surface to my baking surface
- Bake in preheated oven at 375° for 15-17 minutes (15 if the sheetpan is already heated, 17 if the sheetpan is cool). USE A KITCHEN TIMER
- Cool, and ENJOY!