13 April 2011

Constructing the Perfect Cheese Straw

2010 was the year of the cheese straw. My grandmother used to make these yummy cheesy and oh so spicy snacks every holiday season, and for some reason I became obsessed with this delicacy last year. I tried every recipe I could find and after much experimenting, my recipe came to resemble the following:


1 stick butter (room temp)
8oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (room temp)
1 1/2 cup flour (usually a bit more)
1/2 tsp salt
Cayenne pepper to taste. (hint: lots)

Mix together into a firm ball of dough, roll out, slice thinly and cook at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Now there are a few tricks to the cheese straw. You have to get the right consistency. They should have a slight crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth texture. Light, crisp, and as for flavor, you should definitely feel the burn. Using the butter recipe, results seem to vary depending on the temperature of the butter and cheese, the brand of cheese, etc.

I like to mix up the butter/cheese/spices first, then add flour gradually until I have the correct firmness of dough. I've learn that the dough should be quite heavy. If you were to hit someone over the head with it, it should render them unconscious for at least 12 minutes. This is how you know the dough is right.

Baking time. More trickiness. Depends on the thickness of the slices and the amount of moisture in the cheese. They are baked until there is no doughy consistency at the center of the cheese straw.

Yeah well, after all this pissing about, and several failures, I finally found my grandmother's recipe stashed in the recipe box. No fuss, no guesswork about the flour and the dough and the cooking time. Here's how she made them:

1 lb grated cheese.

Let me stop there. Is there any phrase in the English language more beautiful than "one pound of cheese"? I think not. Okay, starting over now.

1 lb grated cheese
2/3 cup oil (olive oil for richer flavor, vegetable oil for cleaner cheese flavor)
3 1/2 cups of plain flour
1tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Cayenne pepper to taste (hint: a lot).

She put hers in a pastry bag and piped them onto the baking sheet. This means less baking time - 15 minutes at 325 degrees. If you slice them into straws. Add about 5 minutes. If you use olive oil instead of vegetable oil, add about 5 minutes.

Perfection.

Since I do not have a camera, and my webcam shows nothing but a screaming face that some believe to be the angry spirit of a bear-shark victim, and others believe to be bacon crumbs adhered to the lens, there will be no picture of the perfect cheese straw.

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