When I tended bar at F Street Station in Anchorage, Alaska, one of my lunchtime regulars was chatting with me about baking. He knew that I made treats and cakes for birthdays and weddings, and was sharing memories and recipes of his favorites to make.
I have to say, I was quite surprised to hear how experienced he was in the kitchen.
He was an older gentleman with wrinkled skin, wispy gray hair and kind eyes that smiled through his wire rimmed glasses. He was very knowledgeable and friendly, and also happened to be a former governor of Alaska.
I always enjoyed our chats and was especially excited about that day’s banter as he promised that on his next visit he’d bring in one of the baked goodies he had told me about.
Sure enough, days later he bellied-up to the bar with a little baggie in tow.
It was filled with orange colored cracker-like sticks.
“They’re cheese straws,” he said.
I had never had cheese straws. Apparently they’re very popular in the South – and I was as far north as the states went.
I eagerly opened the baggie and tried my first cheese straw.
My eyes popped in amazement. They were absolutely delicious! The taste. The texture. The bite of spice.
“These are sooooo good!” I exclaimed.
He smiled and then slid over the printed out recipe for them.
And now I’m sharing it with you.
With a food processor and just six ingredients, these crisp and flakey hand-held snacks whip up in no time.
Fresh herbs, like thyme or rosemary, or additional spices, can also be added into the dough. And they’ll last a few days when stored in an air tight container.
They make excellent hor d’oeuvres, pairing well with wine, beer and cocktails, and go great with soup and salads. And with their buttery and cheesy flavor, they’re a hit with kids and grown-ups alike.
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 pound extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (2 1/2 cups)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 6 chunks
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg yolk beaten with 1/2 tablespoon of water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Add flour, salt, cayenne, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until just combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and pulse until the dough forms a ball.
Turn dough onto a large sheet of parchment paper, then knead and flatten into a disk. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 12-by-9-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Slide dough and parchment paper onto a baking sheet and place in refrigerator until chilled, about 15 minutes.
Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into thin 9-inch strips, about 1/4-inch wide.
Carefully place the straws on the prepared baking sheets, about 1/2 inch apart and brush the straws with the egg wash. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden, rotating the pans halfway through. Leave on baking sheets until cool and crisp, about 10 minutes, before serving.
Adapted from foodandwine.com