Cheese Straws

iStockPhoto
Everyone in the South seems to love cheese straws - the thin, crisp pastry sticks with the tang of cayenne and sharp cheddar - and they are always served at cocktail parties and church socials alike. They are almost mandatory at weddings: I remember receptions where the only fare was a silver compote of cheese straws, another of mints, and the wedding cake. Usually cheese-straw dough is piped from a cookie press and snipped into short lengths. Miss Lewis uses the simple technique of rolling out the dough and slicing off the “straws.” Cheese straws improve as the flavors mellow, so make them a day before serving, if possible. A tin of cheese straws makes an excellent hostess gift.

Ingredients
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoondry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons water
Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Sift together the flour, salt, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper. Put the butter and grated cheese in a mixing bowl, and mix for several minutes, until thoroughly blended. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter and cheese, and mix until completely incorporated. Add the water, and mix for one minute longer.

3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead five or six times. Roll the dough out 1/4 inch thick, and cut into strips 1/4 inch wide and 4-6 inches in length. Place the strips on ungreased cookie sheets 1/2 inch apart, and bake in the preheated oven for 12-16 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Cool completely, and store in airtight containers.

From The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, ©2003 Alfred A. Knopf

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 
Makes about 4 dozen pieces
  • Nordic cuisine: Leave the herring, take the taco quiche

    With almost 800 pages of recipes and striking photography, Magnus Nilsson's The Nordic Cookbook is the definitive work on the food cultures of his native land. He spoke with Melissa Clark about the impact winter has on the Nordic countries, the common source of everyone's family herring recipe, and the enduring popularity of taco quiche.

Top Recipes

Reviving an 8,000-year-old winemaking tradition in Georgia

John Wurdeman studied music and art before becoming a winemaker in the country of Georgia. His winery, Pheasant's Tears, has revived an 8,000-year-old Georgian winemaking tradition. He tells Melissa Clark what brought him there, the myriad varieties of Georgian wines, and the integral part they play in that country's meals.