Cheese Straws and Circles

When I was a kid, my summers were filled with books and lots of time running in the sun dappled yard. My mother would us strap us into our trusty red Volvo, and drive us to the library with the windows down. We’d sneakily stick our hands out the window to feel the wind push our hands back. My sisters and I would quiet the minute we go to the library, solemnly picking out our books and propping ourselves on the stacks to read the interesting ones right away. And after the air-conditioning had sufficiently seeped into our bones, we would pile back into the car with our stacks of books. We would spend the rest of the afternoons with our piles of books in the yard reading. I remember sitting on blankets on the deck reading books until the sun set. The soft breeze rippling through the grass and the shade on the deck lulling me into the books.

Well, other than wishing that these huge tomes of law books were nearly so fun to read and that I was still in my backyard plastered to my books like I was as a kid… I remember reading a story that talked about cheese straws. It sounded so glamorous and delicious. The main character was in London, and her friends were visiting and she scraped together these cheese straws with “just a bit of butter, cheese, flour, and water.” I wanted to feel as glamorous in my chic apartment munching on cheese straws… so I obviously tried my hand at it. My mother’s the forgiving sort that let us experiment with all of the kitchen supplies, and would patiently watch while we insisted we knew what we were doing. After mushing together an extraordinarily expensive chunk of cheese with some flour, water, and butter… I baked my little straws. They were actually just awful. I was just a kid, but the cheese straws I imagine in my head were light and crunchy and melted on your tongue. The ones that I had made were heavy blocks of floury cheese.

Needless to say, I never looked at another recipe for cheese straws again. I just wasn’t interested in baking blocks of disappointment. But, then two years ago when I started law school, I was actually living alone in my chic little apartment with my equally chic little puppy. I felt that it was time to try my hand at cheese straws again. I followed the recipe on smittenkitchen, which was delicious, but the dough was just a bit too substantial for me. I wanted little straws that were meltingly lovely and that were equally pretty. So, I tweaked. Just a bit. And discovered that a combination of cheddar and the best Parmesan (that my teensy grocery carries) made all of the difference. A generous sprinkle of crushed red pepper made them just spicy enough, and of course, all food must be pretty… so I used the teensiest fluted cutter I have.

Cheese Circles (Adapted from smittenkitchen, who references Lee Bros. Southern Cooking)

  • 1 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, grated finely
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated finely
  • 4 tablespoons of good butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of flaky sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, I whizzed mine through a food processor to get smaller flakes
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the cheeses, butter,  flour, salt, and pepper. Work the mixture together until the dough is crumbly and well incorporated.
  2. Slowly drip the cream into the bowl, stirring until the dough comes together into a cohesive ball.
  3. On a lightly floured table (or counter) roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch. Cut with a 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Or whatever size you desire.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees Farhenheit for 10-15 minutes. The circles should be golden and have poufed up a bit.
  5. Note: In one of my runs, I sprinkled a little Parm over the tops of the circles and that was delicious also… but I prefer mine without.

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