Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fifth Day of Appetizers: Cheese Straws

I don't know about you, but the proximity of Christmas is starting to make me nervous.  Not only am I only on my fourth fifth appetizer of the season, but I add a new gift recipient to my list every day and I still haven't done any shopping.  Talk about holiday stress!  Thankfully my calendar is clear from now until the holidays, so I can get some cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping, and maybe even some ice skating crossed off the list. 

For today, I'll just focus on my next appetizer -- these tasty cheese straws that have a little bit of a kick to them!  I made them one evening with my friend Leigh and she described them perfectly as slightly spicy Cheez-Its.  I couldn't believe how easy it was to make these cheese straws, and they were quite the hit even at work the next morning!  The combination possibilities are endless as well, and I'm thinking an asiago/rosemary cheese straw could be great party snack.  You can make them in advance and set them out in pretty glasses for people to take as they please.  And trust me -- they will take them!

Spicy Cheese Straws
perfectly wonderful as is
from smitten kitchen

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon half-and-half (we used 2% milk and it worked just fine)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.  (We also used the food processor to grate the cheese, using the grater attachment.) 

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into thin strips at your desired length, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide.  Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/4-inch between them.  (They will puff up!) 

Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.

Arrange in a pretty glass and serve at room temperature.

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