In the middle of the day last Monday, when I emailed Gerrit to ask how his day was going, his response was, “Well, it can’t be bad when I’ve packed cheese straws with my lunch.” No kidding. Cheese straws, those typically unexciting, sometimes stale, often times off in flavor, Southern wedding reception staples–cheese straw–were making his day better than it would have been otherwise.
And with good reason, because believe it or not, these are one of the most exciting things to come out of our kitchen in awhile, mostly because they were a complete underdog. I made these for a wedding shower last weekend, rolling them out on my kitchen counters early on Friday so that if they didn’t turn out, I still had time to call in an order for them. But they turned out. Oh my, did they turn out.
Cheese straws are a bit of a joke in my family. When Gerrit and I were getting married and talking about our wedding reception, my mom was insistent that we have cheese straws. I kind of rolled my eyes at the whole thing and let her have cheese straws at the reception even though I thought they were completely unnecessary. So when I volunteered to make some cheese straws for this wedding shower, she got to have a laugh at me in return. I just never believed there was anything to be excited about with cheese straws though because well, I suppose I’ve only ever had cheese straws that tasted old and stale or a bit over processed.
I had no idea that cheese straws could be like these though, like our favorite cheese snack crackers, only with a pure cheese flavor and a more buttery texture. I had no idea when I rolled out the cheesy dough across my counter that they would puff up in the oven like a flaky pastry crust, only with layers of cheese. And I definitely had no idea how addicting these would be, so much so that I completely lost count of how many I ate at the shower every time I passed by the food table.
My favorite thing about these, second to their pure flaky goodness, was how easy they were to make in my food processor. (Oh my goodness grating cheese in that thing is incredible. If it wasn’t for the fact that I would have to wash the entire assembly every time I used it, I would be grating cheese in it constantly). I did make half of the recipe by hand, just for you, so that you would know that it is possible (before I had a large food processor, I hated seeing recipes that required one…so I want you to know that it is not required).
But in the food processor, the dough came together only in the time is took me to measure out the ingredients and pulse them together for less than a minute. And while the rolling out and cutting of the dough took a bit more time, it’s a good thing I can make this dough so fast because I already have requests for future parties.
from Southern Living Magazine Dec. 2010
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Makes about 3 dozen
1 (10 oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Crushed red pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons half and half
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cheese, flour, butter, salt, and about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or none at all if you don’t like spicy). Pulse until the mixture has turned into coarse crumbs. Add the half and half, beginning with 2 tablespoons, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. If it doesn’t come together after about 10 to 20 seconds, add more half and half until it does. (Here you can chill the dough for up to three days).
1b. If you don’t have a food processor and would like to make these by hand, that works too. Grate the cheese on the finest grater you have. Combine the cheese, flour, salt, and crushed red pepper, and cut the butter into the flour/cheese mixture with a pastry blender. Then stir in the half and half until it comes together in a dough (although it might take a bit of kneading it together by hand…but not too much, just until it comes together).
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
3. Divide the dough in half and roll it out (one half at a time) on a well floured counter top to a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Dough should be about 1/8 inch thick.
4. Cut the dough into strips about 3/4 inch wide using a fluted pastry wheel or a sharp knife. Place the strips on the prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until puffed and beginning to turn golden brown around the edges. Cool for about 30 minutes before serving.