Thursday, October 6, 2011

Southern Cheese Straws

You know what's delicious? Food that contains a pound of cheddar cheese. In the South, cheese straws are a bit of a staple, and no one questions the ratio of cheese to flour. I'm convinced the only reason this recipe calls for any flour is simply to hold the cheese together, but that's part of its beauty. If you Google "cheese straws," you'll come up with countless recipes, and I don't know that any one is better than the others. I came across this one at Belle of the Kitchen, and I was convinced it was worth trying because they were the blog's author's grandfather's signature recipe. Did you get all that? If a recipe is worth passing through generations, it's a keeper.

I made these for one of my sister's wedding showers, and I was very pleased with the result. While my first attempt at cheese straws was more like cheese coins than the beautiful crackers in Belle's post, I figured it just gave me an excuse to try again soon! So here I'll share my adaptation on the original recipe, and you can decide what you'd like to do. Enjoy!

Southern Cheese Straws

1 pound New York extra sharp cheese
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use a full teaspoon if you like them especially spicy)
dash of paprika

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grate the cheese. Then, using a food processor, mix the cheese and the butter. Add the flour, pepper and paprika a little at a time to the mixture and pulse until well combined and very soft.

Either place the dough in a metal cookie press fitted with a flat disk and squeeze onto an ungreased cookie sheet, or scoop small balls of dough onto sheet, flattening slightly.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until they just start to darken. Sprinkle with kosher salt when they come out of the oven. If done with a cookie press, cut into pieces when they are still warm.

A pound of cheddar is no joking matter. Fortunately, I was using my Microplane Course Grater, which made quick work of the "shred cheese" step. I love that this tool adjusts, and it comes with a protective sleeve to spare my knuckles when I reach in kitchen drawers. When cooking, it's worth it to use block cheese because it doesn't contain the wax that keeps pre-shredded cheese from sticking to itself when packaged.

My cheese, etc. is on the Large Cutting Board, and the arsenal of tools is as follows: Cheese Knife, Adjustable Measuring Spoon, Dots Pasta Bowl, Measuring Cup Set, Microplane Coarse Grater, and Stainless Mixing Bowl. Things are about to get crazy.

I don't have a food processor, so every recipe that calls for one requires a second look before I can commit. In this case, I knew I could simply knead my dough by hand after doing what I could with a hand mixer. Welcome to a whole lot of cheese with a little bit of flour.

The Small Scoop is seriously the greatest thing ever. Just scoop out the dough, press it slightly with your hand, and you're set! I used the Large Bar Pan with Parchment Paper, and I also used a Cookie Sheet.

Before becoming the baked perfection that is a Southern cheese straw.

These were successful. They may not have been the correct shape, but the flavor was there, and I came out with a go-to recipe for the future. These are displayed on the Dots Oval Platter from the Simple Additions Collection, and they're perfectly complemented by a beautiful spread of shower food. Someone else want to have a bridal tea so I can try this again?

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