Hazelnut thyme matchsticks are thin, crisp crackers made with ground hazelnuts, cheese, and butter. Perfect for snacking.
Over the past few years, Paris has seen new types of food events appear: gallery openings in which the catered buffet matches the exhibition; food and wine tastings in unusual locations (barges, museums, antique butcher shops); renowned chefs cooking on the street or from market stalls and offering their food for free; edible sculptures that disappear into the viewers’ stomachs and have to be built afresh the next day. These initiatives stem from a desire to look at food in a playful way and are enthusiastically received by the public.
I’ve had the opportunity to take part in a few such events, including one in a famous Parisian department store, where my partner Marion Chatelain and I set up a series of tastings that we called Bar à Veloutés (“velouté” means “velvety soup”). From this bar we served a colorful variety of sweet or savory soups in small shot glasses, with a choice of toppings and dippers, so people could experiment with flavor and texture pairings.
These tastings involve more planning and logistics than one might think, but they are fun and gratifying. You get to see the tasters’ reactions up close, and receive instant feedback on your ideas; most visitors are intrigued and appreciative (apart from a few graceless characters, but these are entertaining, too), and the food always disappears in no time, as free food will.
Among the edible stirrers we created for the Bar à Veloutés were these two-bite hazelnut thyme matchsticks, thin and crumbly and racy in flavor. I was so taken with them that they were soon added to my repertoire as an oft-prepared and much loved aperitif nibble.–Clotilde Dusoulier
Hazelnut Thyme Matchsticks
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 oz) chilled unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) grated Parmesan
- 3/4 cup shelled hazelnuts (skin on, for a prettier color effect), very finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme or 4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves chopped
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk for glazing
- In a large mixing bowl, rub the flour and butter together until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the cheese, hazelnuts, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Blend well. Add the egg and blend it in with a fork. Once the egg is absorbed, knead the dough lightly until it comes together and forms a ball. It should be smooth enough to be rolled out: if it is too dry, add a little cold water, teaspoon by teaspoon, until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Divide the dough into two balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to a day. (If you refrigerate it for more than 2 hours, remove it from the fridge about 15 minutes before you use it, or it will be too hard to work with.)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove one ball of dough from the fridge. Roll it out thinly on a well-floured surface to form a rectangle approximately 6 by 8 inches and 1/6 inch thick. Beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon fresh water in a small bowl. Brush this mixture lightly over the rectangle of dough and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- Turn the dough so the longest edge faces you. Use a sharp knife to divide it into vertical strips about 1/4 inch wide. Cut the rectangle in half horizontally so each matchstick is 3 inches long. Transfer the matchsticks onto the prepared sheet, leaving 1/2 inch of space between them. Repeat with the second ball of dough.
- Bake the hazelnut thyme matchsticks for 13 to 16 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. They will keep for a week in an airtight container at room temperature.
Hazelnut Thyme Matchsticks VariationFor a quicker preparation, shape the dough into two logs (about 1 inch in diameter), put in the freezer for 15 minutes, and slice thinly to form round crackers.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These little Thyme Hazelnut Matchsticks are delightful. They’re much like a cracker in stick form Expect them to be dry with a wonderful flavor. The combination of taste and texture was a tasty experience. I served them along with a classic French onion soup and they were delicious. I could also see them as an appetizer along with an assortment of fruits and cheeses.
They took me about 45 minutes from start to finish. The dough came together beautifully. I added only a teaspoon of water.
Here is where I changed the technique of the recipe and I would suggest it as it would make the recipe easier and more time efficient. Once I kneaded the dough lightly, I put a piece of plastic wrap about 20 inches long on my counter. I then put had my dough on the bottom half and folded the top half of the plastic wrap over it. I then rolled my dough easily into a 6-by-8-inch rectangle. I put the dough in the freezer for 5 minutes, until it was stiff but not frozen. I took it off the plastic wrap and put it on my parchment paper that was lining my cookie tray. I used the egg wash and sprinted with salt. It was here that I cut my dough into slices and easily slid them apart, ready to bake.
They do puff a bit when baking, so if want a thinner matchstick, you could roll this into a 7-by-8-inch rectangle. I baked each batch for 16 minutes at the original thickness. I got 70 matchsticks.
These are addictive little treats that I’ve had to put out of reach to keep from devouring. They’re a little cheesy, a little nutty and salty, and the thyme adds just the right touch to complement everything else.
I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 – 1 flour and made both shapes. I ended up adding about 3 teaspoons water to the dough and actually wish I had added at least one more to give the dough more hydration. As it was, some of the coins and matchsticks broke apart during cutting and I think a little more moisture would have solved that problem. The dough rolled out easily and the final dimensions for the matchstick portion were perfect. Transferring the matchsticks to the pan was easy using a spatula. I simply collected several at a time and separated them once they were on the baking sheet. The coins took almost 20 minutes to begin to brown and the matchsticks slightly longer at 21 minutes.
They’re definitely worth making and serving with drinks or as a snack. And at day 3 they still seem to be keeping well.
These crackers are so tasty. I’m a big fan of a cheese-tinged cracker and the hazelnut in these adds a nice rich flavor overall. I like that you can adjust the bake time of these crackers for your favorite level of crispness (the suggested 12-16 minute bake time was perfect for a soft-to-crispy spectrum; 12 minutes for a softer cracker, 16 minutes for a snappy cracker). It’s a solid recipe and turns out really nice-looking matchsticks or rounds.
Very easy to pull this dough together. The dough held pretty well without water, but I added just a tablespoon to make it a tiny bit easier to form the dough balls.
Rolling out the dough: the dimensions seemed accurate. I cut the dough into a rectangle to be sure I could get the 3-inch sizes. I did not find them hard to transfer to the cookie sheet at all.
I tried both matchsticks and the rounds, but instead of rolling my dough into a log, I just used a biscuit-cutter to get rounds. Based on my experience with world-peace cookies and other such refrigerator doughs, I don’t think this dough would slice into thin crackers very easily at all, so I wouldn’t recommend that.
These were absolutely delicious! Not to mention how quickly they came together. I’ll admit they were a little challenging at first cutting them into matchsticks, but once I got rolling it went pretty quickly. One thing to note is that the hazelnuts really need to be finely chopped. I had a couple break because of the larger pieces of nut.
I did the first ball in the matchsticks and the second one I cut into crackers. I just love how cute the matchsticks are, though. I used fresh thyme and I can’t wait to try them with lemon thyme. They were great served with a strawberry and spinach salad.
What delicious morsels for nibbling! I love the idea of serving them standing up in a tumbler. It was great fun experimenting with this recipe. I used half of the dough to make matchsticks and the other to make round crackers, and I’m happy to report that both were a success. I left some of the matchsticks uncut, leaving them 6 inches long like miniature grissini, those crispy Italian breadsticks. The unbaked sticks were a little fragile, but overall they were easy to transfer to the baking sheet. I just slid my offset spatula underneath to lift several sticks at a time. (If they break, just gently smush the pieces together with your fingers. They puff up slightly and bond in the oven, becoming quite sturdy when baked.)
I would skip the egg wash next timed though—the tacky surface made it awkward to cut the dough into thin sticks. The log for the crackers was about 10 inches long, 1 inch in diameter, and freezing it for 15 minutes made it perfect for slicing it into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. The sticks were baked in 16 minutes but I Ieft them in the oven for 2 more minutes for a richer color. I did the same with the crackers: done in 18 minutes with the additional 2 minutes for color.
Try pecorino Romano if you prefer a sharper cheese flavor, and you can certainly use a stronger herb such as oregano or rosemary to complement the saltiness. Matchsticks and crackers kept for at least 5 days.
These matchsticks proved to be a fairly simple and versatile treat to make. The nuts cheese and thyme combo is a favorite of ours. We used them on a cheese board and as an addition to a salad course. I even froze the remainder and have been pulling them out and adding to a dinners that don’t include bread. Will be making these over and over again!
I needed to add 2 tsp of water to my dough. I did not have any trouble transferring the sticks to the baking sheet. They kept and froze very well.
Originally published November 25, 2009