I’m not sure where this greatness has been all of my life. Being a Midwestern girl through and through, cheese straws weren’t something I’d ever encountered before. But a wonderful friend gave me a gift subscription to Southern Living, and these babies were featured in the recipe section of my first issue. A easy-to-prep, savory snack that I could add to my Christmas goodie boxes? I’m in. (After all, I’ll try anything once.)
Then, I baked these suckers and discovered that they taste just like A HOMEMADE CHEEZ-IT. Seriously. And now that Christmas is over, you don’t have to add them to anyone’s gift box. You can keep the whole batch for yourself and not feel guilty about it. (Hey, New Year’s resolutions don’t kick in until Tuesday.)
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
1 tablespoon half-and-half (I diluted some heavy cream)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I went easy on this, since the cheese has salt in it.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cheese and butter together. Beat in the half-and-half and salt. Gradually add the flour and spices, mixing until just combined. Form the dough into a ball.
Turn the dough out on to a well-floured surface (I used my pastry mat) and divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll out the first portion until it is 1/8″ thick. Using cookie cutters (or a knife, if you’re not interested in fun shapes!), cut out shapes. Place cheese straws on prepared cookie sheets about one inch apart.
Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. (Mine were done in about 14 minutes.) Remove from oven and let cool on sheets on wire rack. When straws have cooled, remove them from the cookie sheets.
Repeat with second ball of dough. When finished, reroll all of the scraps and cut into shapes. (Southern Living suggested only rerolling the scraps once; I disregarded that advice and kept rolling and cutting until all of the dough was gone.)
Store in an airtight container.
Note: I had the best luck with the snowflakes and the tiny airplanes. I also used my tiny biscuit cutter to make round ones, however, I found that those softened the quickest after being stored overnight. The snowflakes and airplanes kept their crunch.
Barely adapted from Southern Living, December 2012