AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: The Quest for Crispy (Recipe: Cheese Straws) DATE: 12/02/2009 02:50:00 AM ----- BODY:

When my parents took their annual anniversary trip to the Caribbean, they would ship me and my sister off to our grandmother’s house in Alabama. Once there, Grandma Charlotte would trot us around town to visit her friends or to the country club to play bingo and eat fried chicken.

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.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:12/02/2009 07:48:00 AM Woo hoo -- Sriracha in cheese straws! That's a first for me. I'm bookmarking and absolutely have to try these. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Katie DATE:12/02/2009 08:30:00 AM My grandmother used to make cheese straws frequently, and hers were great. I'm pretty sure that she used tabasco, but Sriracha sounds even better! I wonder why she hasn't made them in years... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Fresh Local and Best DATE:12/02/2009 06:09:00 PM Yummy! These are so unique and wonderful! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous jo DATE:12/03/2009 08:17:00 PM I'll check my Alabama festival cookbooks tomorrow and see if there is anything in there. We had a friend who grew up in Gulf Shores and i used to pick up those books whenever we went to visit. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ DATE:12/04/2009 08:01:00 PM I've never made cheese straws or eaten them that I know of. They look really good! ----- --------