Saturday, February 11, 2012

Better Than Drugs - Cheese Straws

Never allow me to buy cheese crackers again.  These were so simple, so easy to work with, so quick to form and bake and so darned delicious that I cannot imagine simply purchasing cheese crackers again.  Hydrogenated oil, too much salt, a sour taste that makes me wonder if the crackers went bad?  No thanks.  I'd rather these instead, a light, crispy, buttery, cheese-speckled, mildly garlicky and thoroughly addictive snack.  Only five ingredients, and the dough came together in a moment.  I didn’t have a rolling pin, and that didn’t matter.  I just patted it into rectangles, cut and baked, and out came these dreamy little treats.  

Unbaked, they were amazingly easy to handle.  Afterwards, they were sturdy; not a single one broke in transit.
Deb of Smitten Kitchen published the recipe back in 2009, and I only realized the day I wanted to make them that they required a food processor.  Luckily they turned out just fine using my little knife to chop the cheddar shreds extra fine and my hands to form the dough.  I decided on adding garlic at the last moment.  I wasn’t sure that black pepper was the best choice for cheddar, and I had no red pepper flakes.  I also wanted a flavor that was distinctive and complemented the cheddar, but without overwhelming it.  I’m pleased to announce that it was a good decision.

Cheese Straws adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 40 short straws (About 4 inches long)

1½ cups shredded cheese*
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened**
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

Sharp knife and cutting board
1 medium bowl
¼ teaspoon measure
¼ cup dry measure
½ cup dry measure
Flour to dust work surface
Cookie sheets and parchment paper to line (I used 1, and baked in two batches)


1. Finely chop the shredded cheese and finely mince the garlic cloves.  Toss the cheese and garlic into the medium bowl.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a cookie sheet (or 2) with parchment paper.

3. Add the butter, flour and salt to the cheese and garlic.  Using your fingers, rub the whole delightful mess together until it forms a dough. 

4. Dusting the cutting board or a nice, clean, flat surface with a little flour, roll or pat the dough into a rectangle (I had a small surface, so I worked in batches).  Using a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into strips and gently lay on the cookie sheet.  If the strips break, they can be patched together without harm.   

5. Bake the cheese straws at 350°F for about 12-15 minutes, until lightly toasted.  Cool them completely, and try not to eat them all right away.  Enjoy!

I can just imagine munching these during finals week; they're little crunches of happiness.  Food for thought :)

*Deb originally called for extra-sharp cheddar.  I had some mild cheddar that I’m convinced was made by mistake, it was so bland, and used a mixture of half mild and half sharp cheddar.  I’m betting pepper jack would be amazing.

**I used salted.  It worked just fine as I reduced the salt to ¼ teaspoon.

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