RECIPE: BUTTERY BLACK PEPPER CHEESE STRAWS



A fresh, crisp cheese straw is a beautiful and I think very underrated thing. Easy to make and full of salty savouriness, they really are the perfect accompaniment to an evening cocktail and a lovely thing to set out on a plate as a little welcome snack if you have guests coming for dinner.

I love recipe that you can easily adapt the flavour of with the switch of just a few ingredients and the cheese straw is one of the best things you can do that with because it's basically a savoury shortbread. Just go with the flavours that you're feeling that day and switch out the spices and cheeses as you wish, just make sure you're choosing hard and semi hard cheeses - no mozzarella here (and that is not something you'll hear this mozz addict saying often). But you really can go wild - add finely chopped fresh herbs or even softer dried herbs like basil or try one of my favourite additions, crisp little pieces of prosciutto. Just get a few thin slices of prosciutto and pop them in a dry frying pan to crisp up for a few minutes, then finely chop and add to your mix with the cheese.

I used cheddar and romano for these but other combos I love are red leicester with parmesan and some added crispy onion bits, monteray jack and pecorino with sweet smokey paprika and white stilton with parmegiano reggiano and very finely chopped dried apricot for an addictive salty-sweet mix.


Black Pepper Cheese Straws
Makes around 20 cheese straws

Ingredients
375g plain flour
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of white pepper
pinch of celery salt
pinch of good salt (I love Maldon!)
4-5 generous grinds of black pepper
225g butter, diced and at room temperature (not super soft)
150g grated cheddar or other semi hard cheese
50g grated romano or other hard cheese
2 egg yolks

Method
Mix your flour and spices with a whisk to combine, then rub in the butter between your fingertips until the mixture is like breadcrumbs. Add your cheeses and the egg yolks and give it a quick mix with a fork before getting in there with your hands to mix quickly into a dough. Shape into a rough flat square shape and wrap in cling, then pop in the fridge to chill for half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 190C/gas 5 and line a baking sheet with baking paper. Roll your chilled dough out to about half a centimetre thick and then use a sharp knife to cut it into the size of cheese straws you want - I chop the rolled out rectangle in half and then cut that into slices about an inch in width.

Pop the dough straws onto the lined baking sheet - they don't really spread so you don't need to leave huge gaps between them - then pop them in the oven for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of straw until they've risen a little and are golden and glossy looking. As soon as they're out of the oven sprinkle over some more freshly ground black pepper and allow to cool completely, making sure you sneak at least one warm one as a chef's treat. 

Cheese straws will keep for 4-5 days when kept in an airtight container.
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