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Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws

Today would have been my mom’s 76th birthday. Hard to believe it’s been almost three years since she died. Mom was my inspiration for starting this blog. She was a wonderful writer and gifted storyteller, though not the best cook. Mom was the first to admit it! She always said Dad was the better cook and she marveled at how Dad and I would cook without recipes. She urged me to write my recipes and share them with others. Hence this blog.

Mom had three favorite food groups – butter, salt, and mayo (it’s amazing she was as skinny as she was). Probably her favorite snack was cheese straws. Cheese straws have two of her basic food groups covered! It’s only fitting that I share the recipe today.

Cheese straws are a Southern party staple. We serve them at teas, birthdays, weddings, baby showers, open houses, gallery openings, and even at funerals. We give them as gifts and they are well-received.  I always look forward to a package from our friend Ursula during the holidays. I know it will include her delicious cheese straws.

There are many different types of cheese straws. The traditional kind that I grew up with is made with flour, butter, cheddar cheese, cayenne pepper, and salt. The dough is typically pushed through a cookie press into long thin crispy straws.  However, there are many other varieties:  cheese straw wafers, cheese straw “biscuits” with Rice Krispies, sausage (or soy) cheese balls, and even cheese straw dough wrapped olive puffs (the star of many 1970’s cocktail parties at our house!). The South loves cheese straws so much that there are bakeries that specialize in them and there are cooks who have a cherished cheese straw recipe handed down between generations. 

I have experimented with some healthier substitutes. Gluten-free flour blends are better now and can be used in the recipe. Spelt flour also works. Personally, I have not experimented with a vegan version, but I have heard it is possible to use almond or soy cheese and margarine (or a coconut oil blend).

This particular recipe is a tweaked version of several friends’ recipes with a few of my own twists. Special thanks to Dan Tatum, Ursula Vann, and Connie Ulrich for sharing their recipes over the years. I must give full credit to Dan for the technique. I have always used a cookie press but then I tried Dan’s cheese straws over the holidays. He rolled them out with a rolling-pin and then cut them with a pizza cutter. They were awesome! Like little crispy, French fry-shaped cheese biscuits of goodness. The cheese straws in the photos are a little short. We ate the long, pretty ones and then I decided to take photos for the blog. Oops, I’m still learning! Hope you enjoy one of my ma’s favorite snacks…

Cheese Straws (Print recipe)

2 cups grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese, softened at room temperature*

1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Paprika

Preheat oven to 375º F. Mix all the ingredients – you can use a food processor, a mixer with a dough hook, or mix it by hand, the old-fashioned way (my preferred method!). You will end up with a thick dough. You can use either method to form your straws:

Traditional method: Use a cookie press with a star attachment to form the straws directly on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

-OR-

Dan’s method: Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough on a floured surface. You want the dough about 3/16”. You can use chopsticks on either side as guides. Then, use a pizza cutter to cut long, thin strips. Transfer them carefully to a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Store in an air tight container.

*Notes about the cheese: After grating the cheese, leave it out until it comes to room temperature. Whatever cheese you use, you want to grate it yourself! Store bought pre-grated cheese just isn’t the same in this recipe. Something must be added to keep it from clumping and it interferes with the texture of the cheese straws. Cheddar varieties: for the cheese straws in the photo, I used an extra-sharp aged white Cheddar cheese. They were delicious but not the same as when I use sharp or extra-sharp yellow Cheddar cheese.  They just didn’t look the same. Cheese Straw Purists probably won’t like my white Cheddar substitution, but it’s what I had. I thought they were good, even if they weren’t traditional looking! And finally don’t skimp on the cheese, you want 2 full cups.

 

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  1. June 29, 2012 at 8:39 am

    I’ll definitely try these; they look delicious!

    • June 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Hope you like them! Dan’s technique is wonderful. I think it makes a big difference.

  2. Robin Kisala
    June 29, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I never knew these were a southern favorite. On New Years my mom used to make cheese crackers, also with cayenne. I have her recipe…I’ll have to check but the ingredients seem the same. It will be fun to try your straws!

    • June 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      I’ve always just assumed they were southern; probably because they were such a big part of my childhood. I’d love to see your mom’s recipe. Hope you like this version.

  3. July 6, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Ooh, I’ll have to try this with the block of cheddar I have in the fridge. They look delicious!

    I’ve read they add flour or some hyper-processed version of flower in order to keep pre-shredded cheese from clumping. It does make a difference, sadly.

    • July 6, 2012 at 10:30 am

      Hope you like them :) I’d heard they add flour or corn starch, either way, it’s just not the same (but it is convenient at times).

  1. July 29, 2012 at 9:02 am

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