03 December 2009

Cheese Straws

Cheese straws are long pastry fingers with, as you might have guessed, added cheese. A sort of long, cheesy biscuit, if you will. They sit nicely alongside sausage rolls, chunks of cheddar and pineapple on cocktail sticks and cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off as quintessential British party food. A glass of crisp white wine, a plate of cheese straws and a doily, and you're away...
100g (3.5 oz) butter
100g (3.5 oz) plain flour
150g (5.25 oz) deliciously tasty cheese (go for a mature, strong flavour)
Salt and pepper to season
1 egg yolk
Sieve the flour and grate the cheese. Cut or rub the fat into the flour, just as if you were making pastry, and add the grated cheese. Mix in a sprinkle of salt and a grind or two of pepper. It's important to use a good, tasty cheese here - after all, if you're going to use butter to make something pastry-based, you might as well splash out on the cheese as well. If you're stuck with supermarket brands then a good pinch of cayenne pepper can help add to the bite.
Use the egg yolk and a couple of tablespoons of water to bind the mixture together into a ball. Be careful here - it really is just like very cheesy pastry, so if you go wild and add too much water you'll end up with tough cheese straws. You want it to just hold together; if you can get it to do this with just the egg yolk then so much the better.
Flour a work surface and roll the dough out to about 5mm (1/8th of an inch) thick, gently pressing it into a square, if you can. Then simply cut it into strips about 1cm wide. You could also do them a little wider, if you want chunky cheese straws. Pop them on a baking tray, possibly lined with some non-stick baking paper, leaving a small gap between each straw.
Nearly there now... pop them in a 220°C oven (that's about 425°F) for about seven minutes. You could put them in a lower oven for longer, of course, but whatever you're doing, it's wise to check these after about six minutes. They're supposed to be a beautiful pale golden brown, you see, not black...
This basics of this recipe come from a wonderful book I found under the stairs called 'Bestway Cookery Gift Book', a treasure trove of pre-war cookery. My favourite recipe is for boiled calf's head with parsley and brain sauce, although I've never dared try to make it. Mmm!

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