Last updated on November 22nd, 2016
Masseria Maida is based in Campania, a region in southwest Italy known for its incredibly fertile volcanic soil—as Tango Italia so eloquently puts it, the area was historically the Romans’ “vast vegetable garden and their orchard.” Using his grandmother Antonia’s recipes of only fresh fruit and sugar, Masseria Maida owner Francesco Vastola grows his own produce to make meltingly sweet jams, He’s also an expert creator of gorgeous red and golden tomato sauces, antipasto with unexpected bits of pumpkin and celery(!), and the most tender, delectable tiny artichokes.
But back to kicking out the jams. It seems so appropriately autumn that Maida’s pear-walnut flavor is my latest addiction. It’s honey sweet, with translucent ribbons of pears and crunchy walnuts studded throughout a loose golden syrup.
And because I’m happiest when adding a savory element to anything sweet, I’m swooning at how well these preserves match up with a salty cheese. A fresh and tangy goat cheese like Selles-sur-Cher, Boucheron, or this Sainte-Maure de Touraine is heaven when topped with the preserves on a piece of toasted baguette, but I’ve also been known to use a thin slice of Pecorino in place of a cracker and spoon the jam directly onto the cheese.
Should you be serving this to others (and not eating it over the sink at night like I have done), an elegant and impressive option would be these homemade Pecorino flatbread crackers.
Pecorino Flatbread Crackers
Prep time: 30 minutes plus dough chilling time
Cook time: 10 minutes
Makes about 5 dozen crackers
- 3/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling out the dough
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into quarters
- 1/4 cup milk
Stir the cheese, flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl, then blend the butter in with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the flour is moist and uniformly crumbly (using the same technique as making pie crust). Add the milk, stirring gently until a dough forms.
Sprinkle the dough with flour and knead gently until smooth, about 2 minutes. You can do this against the side of the bowl, actually, since it’s such a small ball of dough. Remove from the bowl, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide the dough in half and roll out one at a time into thin (1/8-inch thick) rectangles, dusting your rolling surface and pin with flour to prevent sticking, as it is a soft dough. Cut into square/rectangular cracker shapes and transfer to the baking sheets. I make mine on the larger side, about 3 inches by 2 inches. You may have to bake them in two batches depending on the size of your sheets.
Bake the crackers for about 10-12 minutes, switching and rotating the sheets in the oven halfway through. Keep an eye on them as the crackers on the edge may brown more quickly.
Pull the entire parchment paper sheet with the crackers onto a rack to cool.