American cheese has never been a favorite of mine. As a kid I would eat it on a hamburger, but whenever I was given a plastic wrapped slice to eat ‘raw’ my stomach turned. My strategy was to pull off a small piece and then swallow it whole. Chewing was out of the question. I didn’t want this stuff lingering in my mouth.
So when I was reading April’s Kitchen Reader Book Club book I was mildly horrified to read that in the 1950s there was a recipe for making American cheese into a dessert cheese by soaking it in sherry. Did people really eat this stuff? I hope not.
After that mental image you probably done want to come anywhere near cheese, and I don’t blame you, but I assure you these cheese straws are not made with American cheese. Instead they use cheddar (proper British cheddar in my case) and quite a lot of it.
The Old Joy gives quantities for the cheese, the butter and the milk but expects you to add only as much flour as necessary. These old recipes are just so helpful some times.
I started with a quarter cup, but a quarter cup of flour, a quarter cup of butter and a whole cup of cheese is a bit rich so I upped it to half a cup of flour. These are still rich but not so buttery that they melt away in the oven. They aren’t too greasy in the hand but they sure do leave your baking tray greasy.
Cheese straws are not usually the most inspiring things but these were solidly very good. Crunchy on the outside but still tender on the inside. Cheesy, a little salty, with a hint of herb. They went down well as a mid-morning snack.
adapted from the 1931 Joy of Cooking
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz. unsalted butter (=4 Tbs)
1 C finely grated cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp oregano (or any other dried herb or a small handful of fresh herbs chopped very fine)
3 Tbs milk
Put the flour & salt into a bowl and whisk. Add butter and cut it in with your hands, working it until the pieces of butter are crumb size or smaller. Add the cheese & oregano and mix in with your hands.
Mix the milk in with a wooden spoon at first. Switch to your hands to bring the dough together into a ball.
On a floured surface, press the dough to about 1/2 to 1/3 inch thick. Cut with a knife or pastry scraper into strips about 1/2 inch wide. Lay the strips on a baking sheet so they are not touching. Bake for approximately 12-16 minutes until they are golden brown at the ends/edges. Cool on a rack. Or eat them warm. Makes about 12, but could easily be doubled. Serves two for a snack.