Recently, I had a challenge. The lovely folks over at Love and Olive Oil hosted a holiday party potluck, so I needed to make a cold finger food dish that would impress. I decided to make some egg nog cookies. And they were just not great. Okay, but not great. So I decided I wanted to make something else, too just to prove I could make something really yummy.
So I made cheese straws! I found a recipe that not only looked easy, but the comments indicated it was easy. Score! Right? Riiiight?
Not so much. Technically, they are easy to make. The dough is so very, very easy to make. Rolling out perfect 1/8 inch thick dough and cutting perfect 1/3-ish inch wide, 5 inch long straws was easy, but tedious. And took quite a while. But the hard part was the clean-up. Getting that soft dough out of all the nooks and crannies of my food processor nearly drove me nuts. Of course, this was after meticulously cutting these sraws for what seemed like hours. Maybe you won't have this experience. Maybe you trust the top rack of your dishwasher more than I trust mine.
But it was worth it. The cheese straws were a hit (all gone!).
adapted from Gourmet via epicurious.com
1/4 pound (half a block) coarsely grated extra-sharp Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese (yellow)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 stick cold butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons half and half or milk
Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
Pulse cheese, flour, butter, salt, and cayenne in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add half and half/milk and pulse just until dough forms a ball.
Pinch off 1/4 of the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a rectangle (1/8 inch thick) that is at least five inches wide (depth). Cut dough with a lightly floured pizza wheel or lightly floured sharp knife into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Carefully transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, arranging strips 1/4 inch apart. (If strips tear, pinch back together.) Shape into straight straws. Repeat until all the dough has been used. Add scraps back to the dough ball.
Bake 15-18 minutes, starting on the top rack and switching to the bottom rack halfway through. Bake until lightly golden.
**Notes** You must use a good cheddar cheese. I like Cabot--tastes good and contains no animal rennet. Also, your butter must be straight from the refrigerator. The softer it is, the more that gets into your nooks and crannies instead of in your mouth. Some reviewers suggested adding dry mustard to the recipe, which I think would be a great addition. I thought I had some, but it was mustard seed I had. D'oh! But it wasn't necessary. Be sure to store these in a paper bag or tin; storing in an airtight container will cause the straws to lose their snap!