In my family, the cheese straw was reserved for elegant cocktail parties, particularly during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Linen napkins, crystal sherry glasses, beautiful china. That was the setting for my grandmother’s cheese straws.
No one is certain of the cheese straw’s origin. Tradition has it that the first published recipe can be found in Elizabeth Beeton’s The Book of Household Management, printed in London in 1861.
From England, this easy-to-make appetizer swept the American South. Made of three principal ingredients –cheese, butter and flour—the cheese straw or cheese biscuit graced buffet tables at weddings and funerals, Christenings and garden parties.
Their shapes vary widely. Some cooks use a cookie press to make thin straw-like confections; others roll the dough and cut it into rectangles. Some employ biscuit cutters to produce round crackers.
Whatever its shape or size, the cheese straw deserves a spot at any sophisticated gathering.
Makes two dozen cheese straws
1 ½ cups butter or margarine
½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated cold, and allowed to warm to room temperature.
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper*
2 cups flour
1 to 2 tablespoons cold water
STEP BY STEP:
- Grate cold block of cheese. Allow grated cheese to come to room temperature.
- Allow butter to soften at room temperature.
- Combine butter and cheese in a mixer at slow speed.
- Combine flour, salt and cayenne pepper and slowly add to cheese/butter mixture.
- Add water, if needed, until dough has the consistency of pie crust.
- Roll out and cut into biscuits or rectangles. If using a cookie press, follow directions of this device.
- Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 325 for 10 minutes.
*Experiment with cayenne pepper. The ½ teaspoon recommended produces a spicy result. You might prefer a little less cayenne.