My neighbor makes cheese straws for Christmas each year, and they always take me right back to my childhood. Cameron’s classic Southern recipe–crisp-crunchy, mouthwateringly savory and just spicy enough–calls for a cookie press and a star tip and some real skill. The result is perfect, wavy strips pretty enough for gift-giving and so good I am tempted to hide them from my family.
The recipe I follow–from the Internet and there are lots of versions– calls for some Rice Krispies and a fork. The result is a wafer instead of a traditional straw, but they are light and crunchy and perfect for everyday.
At the Southern Foodways Alliance Winter Symposium, held in Birmingham over the weekend, I heard David Hagedorn mention “cheese straws made with cayenne and Rice Krispies,” and, with an immediate Pavlovian kind of yearning, I knew I’d make a batch the very next day.
I follow a recipe called Chica’s Cheese Crisps. It’s incredibly easy, takes no time at all and uses ingredients I usually already have on hand. I like to double it and freeze the leftovers so I’ll have some ready for company. Here’s how to do it:
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded and room temperature
1 stick butter softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending upon how hot you want them)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of garlic powder (if you want it)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, combine the butter and cheese and flour. Mix in the cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder (if you’re using it) until the dough forms a small ball. You can use your hands or a wooden spoon. I like to use a pastry cutter to do this until it begins to stick together. Just mix until there are no ingredients left in the bottom of the bowl.
Using your hands, gently fold in the Rice Krispies cereal.
Pinch off a nickel-size amount and roll into tight balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about one inch apart, and flatten each with a fork.
Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until slightly golden on the edges.
Cool on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes.
Makes about two dozen.