At 3 years old, a cheddar has an almost acidic bite.
Tangy and assertive, it is difficult to imagine a more intense cheese experience. Arguably, a good member of the blue cheese family packs a powerful wallop and there are certainly cheeses that are more pungent; but few cheeses have the mouth puckering quality of a good aged cheddar.
Which is why it is incredibly difficult for me to imagine a recipe that can not only take advantage of this acerbic bite but enhance it.
But that is exactly the promise on which this recipe from Gourmet Magazine delivers.
Well, after a bit of good old fashioned tweaking. Because there is always tweaking.
They key here is using a very …mature and experienced cheddar. My favorite comes from Boar’s Head in the form of creamy white bricks of Aged Canadian Cheddar. I don’t know where they get this particular cheese but it is pure cheddar crack.
Sharp and tangy to the point of fruitiness it is the most flavorful cheddar that I have ever been able to find. There are sharper cheddars but they tend to be harsh going for the sting rather than a full rounded creaminess that the Boar’s Head product has.
Boar’s Head is even better than a lot of the regional, small batch, artisan cheddars that I have tasted. And believe me, I have tasted plenty.
A distant second to my gold standard for sharp cheddar is Dubliner which, while just as sharp, does not have the same well rounded flavor. It is still an excellent cheese. And far more readily available than Boar’s Head which I have had to hunt down with the tenacity of a blood hound in the smallest of niche gourmet markets.
Because I was weak and afraid to go spoiling a perfectly good brick of my favorite aged cheddar, I used Dubliner for this recipe. Something that I think turned out for the best as the rest of the ingredients worked wonders in rounding out Dubliner's flavor to produce and intensely cheddary cracker.
It is one of the great mysteries of cooking when, by processing an ingredient, adulterating it with other less flavorful parts you make it taste more like itself.
It is kitchen alchemy.
The kind that would get you burned at the stake as a witch if it was still fashionable.
That is, of course, unless they actually tasted the cheddar pennies, in which case they would simply be beating down your door to get more.
And the best part about this recipe is that you can mix it once and bake from it over and over again. Wrapped tight in it’s parchment housing and covered in plastic wrap the dough log can keep in the fridge for a week or more and up to three months in the freezer. Which means you can whip up a double batch, freeze the resulting logs then bake the crackers fresh any time you want. Freezer to oven. Do not pass go do not collect 200 dollars!
Buttery, crisp and intense these crackers are best served the same day they are made. Either on their own or with slices of apple or crisp chilled grapes.
Sharp Cheddar Pennies
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
¾ lb very sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon dried Chinese mustard powder 
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper 
¾ teaspoon cumin 
In a food processor, blend salt, cheddar, and egg yolk until smooth and creamy. This can take a while and be somewhat discouraging at first as the cheddar refuses to integrate with the butter. But keep blending until the mixture is the consistency of cream cheese.
Whisk the spices, mustard, and flour together.
Add to the food processor and pulse just until the dough comes together to forms into a ball. The dough will be very soft.
Prepare 2 sheets of parchment paper.
Divide the dough in half, placing half on each piece of parchment.
Working with each half individually, gently nudge the dough into a log about an inch to an inch and a half thick. Even out by using the parchment paper. It’s OK if the dough is not perfectly round. No one will notice.
Wrap the log up in the parchment and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. Or freeze for 2. This can be done well in advance.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Line your baking tray with parchment paper.
Remove 1 log from the refrigerator and unwrap. Slice into thin (1/8 – ¼ inch) slices and arrange on your baking tray leaving about ¼ - ½ inch space between them. They don’t expand much as you bake so there is no need to worry about crowding.
Bake until uniformly golden and beginning to lightly brown around the edges, about 10-13 minutes. I find they are better on the crisp side.
Repeat with left over dough. This recipe makes about 100 pennies.
Server at room temperature and watch them vanish.
 Chinese mustard powder is slightly hot, English mustard makes an excellent substitute. If you can’t find either, use ½ teaspoon regular mustard powder and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
 I like the look of little black peppery flecks in the dough, but if you don't you can substitute white pepper.
 The original recipe was designed to be divided into three parts each flavored with a different single spice, one with pepper, one with black nigella seeds, and one with caraway seeds. I am not a fan of either nigella seeds or caraway however cumin makes a stunning pairing with the sharp cheddar. The earthiness of the cumin blends perfectly with the sharpness of the cheddar. I can’t imagine this recipe without it.