Anatomy of a Classic

Cheese Straws

Makes about 40

This favorite Southern snack has just the right amount of bite

photo: Johnny Autry


Some food historians trace a link to the British “biscuit.” Others cite the biscotti and hard breads of Italy and Spain. But wherever cheese straws originated, they’ve found a real home in the South. Not surprisingly, they’ve seen their share of recipe tinkering.

“We were making cheese straws using scraps of leftover puff pastry, rolling them in cheese and rosemary,” says Brian Noyes, owner of Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Virginia. “Although these were tasty treats, I felt a bit like we were cheating because I remember the cheese straws my North Carolina grandmother made. They were thicker, cracker-like snacks, very flaky but firm.”

Making cheese straws was once a way of preserving cheese in the hot and humid South. But nothing enhanced their appeal like a good cocktail, and they became immensely popular in the canapé-crazed fifties and early sixties. Inspired by today’s artisan spirits revival, Noyes adapted his grandmother’s recipe, adding elements from his aunt to create a “new-old” version of cheese straws. “I’ve combined my two family versions into a long, hard cracker straw with a good bit of heat, a hearty hit of three cheeses, and a nice rosemary finish,” he says. “My puff pastry days are over. I’ve seen the light.”


Ingredients

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour (Noyes prefers White Lily)

    • 1/2 stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter, slightly softened

    • 1/2 tsp. salt

    • 1/4 lb. shredded sharp orange cheese

    • 1/4 lb. shredded white cheese (equal parts Gruyére and Parmigiano Reggiano

    • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

    • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

    • 1 egg yolk

  • Garnish

    • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

    • Sea salt


Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add all ingredients except rosemary and sea salt. Pulse repeatedly until the dough becomes soft and starts to gather into a ball. On a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle approximately 11 inches wide by 8 inches tall; the dough should be ¼ inch thick. Fold the dough in half (left side onto right side) and re-roll; continue this for several layers (this adds flakiness). Finally, re-roll the dough to 11 inches wide by 8 inches tall.

     

  3. With a spatula, carefully lift the dough onto an ungreased baking sheet with the longer, 11-inch side at the top and bottom. Square off all sides with a knife to create clean edges, and cut the dough into vertical strips, each a bit less than ½ inch wide. Then cut each strip in half horizontally, creating approximately 40 cheese straws. With the knife, gently move the straws to separate. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sea salt.

  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until just slightly golden. Cool briefly, then move to a rack until cooled.

Meet the Chef: Brian Noyes

Hometown: Orlean, Virginia

Current restaurant: Red Truck Bakery (Warrenton, Virginia)

On the menu: Double-chocolate moonshine cake, mincemeat pie

What’s in a name?: Red Truck Bakery’s came from the 1954 Ford farm truck Noyes bought from designer Tommy Hilfiger


tags:

Sponsored Stories