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.”