Cheese Straws (a half-home-made recipe)


I was invited to cocktails and snacks at friend's home this evening. I offered to bring an Hors D'oeuvre over with me when I came. My hostess graciously said I could bring anything I like.

Now I have a HUGE arsenal of appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, and finger food recipes to choose from. this evening I decided to "go retro" and bring a very popular food from the 70's and early 80's: The cheese straw!

What is a cheese straw? you ask...Well, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines them thusly: a narrow strip of puff paste sprinkled with grated cheese before baking. ( www.merriam-webster.com )

Where did they come from? Who invented them? Like many of our classic Americana recipes the cheese straw has its roots in southern cuisine. As tales of food go in the south; they were thought up by a frugal cook-some time in the late 1800's- who was trying to use up some extra biscuit dough. He/She rolled it out, sprinkled it with cheese, cut the dough into thin strips (straws) baked, and VOILA! Cheese Straws are invented!!! Their popularity spread, along with variations on the original recipe. Sometime in the 1970's-with the advent of premade, frozen puff pastry-people started using puff pastry and biscuit dough fell out of fashion.
 
Here is my recipe for lemon-garlic cheese straws:
 
Lemon Garlic Cheese Straws
 
1 sheet puff pastry thawed overnight in the fridge
6 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 large clove garlic-grated on a microplane, or crushed and minced
zest of one lemon-(See video below on how to properly do this)
1-2 Tbs. of butter-melted (or clarified if you know how)
The pastry will be folded into thirds. Gently unfold it and lay it on a clean, lightly floured surface.
 
Place the shredded cheese in the freezer for about 30 minutes to make it easier to work with, but no longer than that or the protein in the cheese with denature and turn grainy (NO ONE WANTS THAT!!!). Remove from the freezer. Toss the shredded cheese, garlic, and lemon zest together in a bowl. Roll out the pasty, with a rolling pin, to 150% its original size. With a pastry brush, lightly dust of the excess flour.
 
Sprinkle the cheese mix over half of the pastry's surface.
 
Fold the empty side over the cheesy side, sprinkle very lightly with flour, and gently roll over the surface with your rolling pin to squish (yes I said "squish") the cheese and dough together. Again dust off the excess flour. Brush some melted butter over both sides of the dough, and with a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into thin strips (about 3/4-1 inch thick).
 
Twist the strips into spirals and lay them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Some of the cheese will melt out of the pastry...don't worry this is normal. Once they are cooled, just pinch off the excess cheese around the edges before you serve them.
2012-10-05 10.44.58.jpg
Congratulations! You have just mastered the Cheese straw.
 
Some variations:
1.  remove the lemon and garlic and just use plain cheese
2. Use a cheese other than cheddar, mix a few together for a blend
3. Add a tsp of cayenne and a Tbs of smoked paprika for a zesty kick
4. Use a tsp each cumin, coriander, and cayenne for a south of the boarder taste
5. Use beurre niosette (browned butter) to add a more complex nutty flavor 
6. instead of cheese use grated chocolate and once they are cooled brush with a little more melted butter and sprinkle LIBERALLY with powdered sugar
The possibilities are endless!!!!!!!!!
 *How to Zest a Lemon:
 

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