Wherever we went, the snacks abound. Cheese straws were the favorite: buttery, crispy and a little bit spicy. They satisfied snacks cravings on many levels. Even though my grandmother was an excellent cook, she never made them: a local woman baked them by the hundreds and sold them in round cookie tins packed in bubble wrap to the Junior League women.
A constant supply of this addictive treat may seem like a good thing: it was not. Since my grandmother never learned to make them, she didn’t have a great recipe to pass on. And since she always had the best, the cheese straw bar was set very high.
With the entertaining season upon us, a stream of guests will make their way through my living room and dining room. To simplify, I want to have snacks at the ready. I decided to tackle the elusive cheese straws.
Uncle Ken is the only one of the four kids who regularly makes cheese straws, and even he admits his recipe is not as good as the ones Charlotte served. As he says, “Same thing every year. I make them. They look nothing like I remember them. They end up more like 'cheese cookies' than cheese straws. Not nearly as crunchy or pretty as I remember them. Yet, my kids eat them, love them, and want more. I remain puzzled, and they are happy. I think what I use now is a variation from Cousin Henry.”
He sent me several old family recipes, including Uncle Henry’s and one from Aunt Emma Lee. The ingredient list is simple and consistent across recipes: butter, flour, cheese, baking powder, salt and cayenne. The variations are in the ratio of butter, flour and cheese; and the baking temperatures.
If crispy is the goal then I decided that more butter and cheese is better, as is a lower cooking temperature.
What follows is the recipe I used. Do you have a great recipe for cheese straws?
¼ pound butter
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/2 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 ¼ cup flour
1 tsp. sriracha chili paste
¼ cup water
1. Cream butter with a paddle attachment in a kitchen aid mixer. Add baking powder, salt and cheese.
2. When combined, add flour and sriracha and just enough water to bind the mixture. Do not over-mix.
3. Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick, and cut into strips, 1 inch by 4 inches.
4. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
5. If you can, let cool before eating and definitely before storing.