Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spicy cheese straws

As I was planning my post for this week, I overlooked a critical step in the process —checking in with my fellow writers to see what they were planning for the week.  Had I done so, I would not have planned my pulled pork recipe to follow on the heels of GoodFountain's yummy barbecue sauce.  Oops.  I plead temporary insanity resulting from the sinus infection and bronchitis which I've been battling. (I'll post the pulled pork another time; mine's more of a southern/Carolinas style, vinegar-based barbecue.)

Searching for some inspiration for a new recipe, I cracked open the box of cook books and recipe boxes I'd packed away to go in my mother's attic.  I did find the krumkake recipe I'd been looking for.  But I digress. 

Feeling a bit nostalgic, I opened up my Nana's battered grey recipe box and began to thumb through the decades and generations' worth of recipes within.  I confess to getting a bit weepy over the memories they evoked of long-ago visits to my grandparents' home in northwestern Connecticut.  Early morning smells of homemade brown bread baking in the oven as we ate our oatmeal at the wooden trestle table nestled against the large fieldstone hearth.  *sigh* It's been so many years since my grandparents passed away and the cabin's long-since been sold out of the family. Yet, the sight of Nana's spidery writing on those cards brought it all flooding back.

There is a treasure trove of culinary history held within that small gray box; I'll endeavor to share some of it in the coming year.  Recipes for my great-grandmother's tea cake and her pie crust recipe which is so amazing my sisters still ask me to send it to them every year (they don't seem to keep too many recipes).  Recipes for homemade egg nog and my grandfather's secret chicken marinade.  So many recipes to choose from and each with a story.

I'm not sure where this particular recipe came from originally.  In fact, I'm not even sure if it's correct!  I guess that's one of the hazards of cooking by "feel" or by instincts; the course corrections may not always be recorded for posterity!  I tried to make the recipe as Nana wrote it but it didn't seem right to me so, I confess, I searched some recipes online to find ways to tweak it to get the right consistency. 

I don't mind telling you that, had I not committed myself to blogging about these delicious little cheese straws, I was so frustrated that I would've gladly scrapped the whole thing!  My husband and son are both glad I didn't as they gobbled up the results with gusto!  (Yes, I broke my dairy-free rule in order to allow Nik to try a few.  Now the challenge is on to find a suitable casein free replacement so I can make these again! When I do, I'll substitute a non-dairy shortening and coconut milk for the other dairy ingredients.)

Here is the recipe as I made it—

2 C flour (I used my GF sorghum blend)
1/4 lb butter (room temp)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 1/2 Tbsp milk*

*Nana's recipe didn't call for any liquid but it just seemed too dry and crumbly so I improvised with great success.

Mix all the ingredients until you have a dough the consistency of thick cookie dough.  I used my stand mixer but recommend using a food processor instead.

Take small portions of the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured cutting board —much the same way you would for rolled cookies. Trim the rolled portion into a neat rectangle then cut the dough into strips about the width of a pencil.  Cut strips to desired lengths (I made mine about four inches long. Any longer and they seem to break apart when I transfer them to the pan).  Arrange them about an inch apart on the tray for baking.

Bake at 325F for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove to cooling racks and allow to cool completely for a delectable, crunchy, spicy treat!

NOTE:  Some recipes I found indicate that you can use a cookie press to make uniform sized extruded straws/cookies.  I did not have any luck with this method as the dough was a bit too thick for the press.

Do you have a favorite appetizer or snack recipe?  We'd love to have you share it —or any other recipes—with us.  Just drop us a line and let us know you'd like to be a guest blogger.

Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy new year!


  1. OMG - The spot where my gallbladder used to live is weeping. Those look (and sound) SO GOOD!

    I'm so glad you're posting here. I miss your posts.


  2. Yum! I always wondered how to make these. They look delicious...

  3. YOU GUYS! These are SO AWESOME! I just finished making a batch of them, and I wish I'd doubled the recipe. I'll be bringing them to my friend's house for our NYE celebration...if they don't all get eaten beforehand. Even Em, who claims not to like cheese, LOVED these. (Baroy won't even try them. He's not just a cheese not-liker, but an outright cheese hater. Grounds for divorce, right there. He's lucky I love him.)

  4. Aw, thanks @TC! My Nana would be thrilled. She loved to share recipes and good food with friends. :-)