What’s better than cheese and crackers? Why cheese IN a cracker, of course. For years, one of my mom’s go-to cocktail snacks has been cheese straws. They’re not complicated to make—just butter, flour, cheese, salt and a pinch of cayenne for kick—but her old recipe called for extruding the straws through the small star plate of a cookie press. The dough is stiff, and if you have a sucky cookie press like I did (I’ve since remedied that with this model), then they’re a royal pain to make.
And then we came across this recipe for cheese straws, and it couldn’t be simpler. The dough is rolled out thin, like pie crust, then sliced into 1/3-inch strips with a pizza cutter. The dough is incredibly forgiving and easy to work with. Baked, they’re light, crispy and incredibly flavorful. Plus, they look so pretty presented in a Mason jar, interesting glass or cocktail shaker.
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp.) cold butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces
rounded 1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 1/2 Tbsp. cold milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and place racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. In a food processor, pulse together flour, cheddar, salt, butter and cayenne until very coarse meal forms. Add milk and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Be patient; it takes several pulses for this to happen, but add a dribble or two of milk if needed.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board, counter or pastry cloth. Divide dough in half; working with the first half, shape into a rough rectangle with your hands. Roll out to 1/8-inch thick, keeping the rectangular shape as much as possible. You’ll want to make the straws 10 to 12 inches long, so trim the dough with a pizza cutter if the rectangle is too long on one side. Using a straightedge or your rolling pin as a guide, cut long strips, 10 to 12 inches long by 1/3 inch wide.
Transfer strips onto two ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 7 minutes, then switch the baking sheets between shelves and rotate them 180 degrees to even baking. Bake another 6 to 7 minutes, until straws are lightly golden. Remove sheets from the oven and let cool a few minutes. Gently loosen straws from the sheets and carefully transfer to a wire rack for cooling.
These keep well in the freezer if you make them ahead, but their shape makes them a bit delicate. If you’re going to freeze them, then make them a bit shorter. Wrap in plastic, then in foil and freeze until needed, then bring to room temperature.