Bacon black pepper cheddar sticks.

As you become a more experienced cook, you become a more confident cook. You learn that it’s OK to substitute ingredients for what you happen to have on hand or to accommodate your family’s likes and dislikes. You realize that recipes are suggestions rather than absolutes (with the exception of baking recipes: those you need to follow closely). And you start hacking some of your favorite recipes, playing around with different variations.

That’s how I came up with this recipe for bacon black pepper cheddar straws. I started with my older recipe for cheddar cheese straws. Then I figured, you know, bacon and cheddar are pretty much BFFs—and pepper is never a bad sidekick for those flavors. I threw the ingredients into my food processor, hit ‘Pulse” a few times, rolled out the dough and baked off a batch of these golden cheesy breadsticks. Tasty!

black pepper bacon cheddar sticks

1 cup flour
1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp.) cold butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces
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, salt, pepper and bacon, until the bacon is chopped fine. Add the butter and cheddar and pulse until very coarse meal forms. Add the 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.

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