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Cheese Straws

These came from Smitten Kitchen. I thought I would try a different recipe than Edna Lewis’, and this one had a less flour: butter/cheese ratio. I cut the first half of the dough into thin squares, poked holes in them with a fork, and sprinkled salt on top. They didn’t really get as crunchy/crispy as I wanted, so I baked the last few at 400 with more crispy (and more brown) results. I tried to crisp up the earlier batches (I baked like 10 at a time in the beginning) by putting them in the 400 degree oven on a rack. I ended up cooking them a minute too long, so those ones are pretty brown too. I ended up using the other half of the dough the way SK intended, by cutting straws and baking at 350. Those came out really well, and I prefer those more. It’s just so hard to get the perfect flat cracker texture! I think I was on to something with the rack, but more experimenting will have to be done. I looked at KA’s cheese cracker recipe, and they use cheese powder, which is what companies like cheez its use. They seem to believe that’s the only way to get the desired crunch.

Jacob liked these better than the first cheese straws, and I agree, but I think they should be straws and not crackers. The crackers were good, and I like my new method, but I prefer them long and skinny. I might have to play with the recipe again some day. It’s a good thing we finished these off the next day, because I don’t think they have a very long shelf life. I didn’t try storing them in the fridge though. I thought having a cold cracker would have been weird.

Cheese Straws
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon half-and-half (I used cream, because I had it on hand; suspect milk would work just as well)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.

3. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza or pastry wheel; both worked great), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet (though I lined mine with parchment), leaving at least 1/4-inch between them. The dough may sag or may break occasionally in the transfer, but don’t be concerned — just do your best. The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.

4. Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.

5. Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days. They will not last an hour at a party.

Variation: One adaptation I am curious to try would be to roll these into thin, round crackers. Because they puff a bit, I’d roll them as thin as possible, and use a fork or skewer to make some holes to keep the expansion in check. If you try this, I’d love to hear how it went for you.

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