Thursday, October 30, 2014

Southern Cheese Straws

There are two things that I think of when I think of Holidays in the South.  First, my mom's stuffed dates (SO GOOD!), and secondly, cheese straws.  Cheese straws are all over the South.  They are baked little bites of cheese with just the slightest hint of spice.  Think of it as a bumped up Cheez-It.  I swear, I could eat an entire batch of these without giving it a second thought.  
These are great to make when you get that phone call of, "Hey!  We're in the area, and though of dropping by!  We'll be there in 30 minutes!"  Then you check what you have in the house, and you have next to nothing.  These only require 6 things that nearly everyone has on hand at all times!
 There are a few different ways you can make these.  You can go the traditional route, by using the cookie press with the "x" die put in it, you can use the cookie press with a flat die, or you can roll it out thin, and cut it into thin strips, if you don't have a cookie press, or you can roll it into a log and cut it into crackers.  As you can see, there are a lot of ways to go about getting some of this goodness!  These are really easy to make, my daughter helped me squeeze these through the cookie press, then helped me eat quite a few of these!  
Here's your very simple grocery list for this lovely snack:
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp smoked (if you can find it) paprika
2 C shredded cheddar cheese (I used mild, but sharp works well, too)
1 stick of butter, room temperature
This comes together very easily, and very quickly, so we'll start off by preheating the oven to 375*, and putting the flour, salt, cayenne and paprika into a mixer, or food processor.  I like to use the food processor, but that's my preference!  You certainly can also just use a mixing bowl and some good old fashioned elbow grease, but I'm way too lazy for that.  Anyway, just mix the flour and spices together until they are well combined , then add in your cheese and butter.

I like to put the butter in, cut into chunks, and process the butter into the flour, just until there are little pea-sized bites of butter/flour.

Add in your cheese, and mix until the dough comes together, into a smooth dough.  If your dough is a little crumbly, add in a little bit of water, 1 tsp at a time.  I had to add about 2 tsp of water to my dough to make it come together.  

At this point, you can go on and bake this up, or you can store it in the fridge for up to a week (it wouldn't be a bad idea to have just a log of this sitting in the fridge throughout the Holiday season!).  If you want to put it in the fridge, form it into a log, and wrap it up in plastic wrap.  

If you have a cookie press, get it ready for some fun!  Put your dough into the canister, put the die in of your choice and press away!  It really is that simple!

They don't have to be the same length, since they will all be the same width.  I did these a couple of different ways, to give you an idea of how you can do this a couple of different ways.  Here I started with the traditional "x" shaped die and pressed a few of those through the cookie press.

I also put these through a flat line die, for another look.  If your dough breaks coming through the dough, no worries, just press it back together!  This dough is really easy to work with!

It looks a little funny here, to have the different shapes, but just roll with it.  Anyway, line your baking sheet with parchment paper and lay your straws out as you pipe them out.  Cook them for about 13 minutes, and boom!  You have amazing cheese straws!  These don't spread, change shape, or brown at all.  It is hard to tell a difference between the before and after of uncooked and cooked, but they are amazing.  The cayenne pepper gives just a hint of kick, while the cheese flavor pairs well with the paprika.  This really is a perfectly balanced recipe, and a constant on every table for every big occasion.  Because they are so good and so easy to make, it's easy to see why!  Everyone is so impressed when they hear these are homemade, but common...these took about 30 minutes, start to finish to make!  

Now then, if you don't have a cookie press, or want more of a cracker look, roll your dough out into a log, and slice off thin disks, and bake for 13-15 minutes.