GINNA PARSONS: Nothing better than the smell of warm cheese

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Sunday was full of delicious, but simple, smells at our house. First, we had a pot of coffee, followed by sizzling bacon and cinnamon rolls. But the best aroma of all was from the dozens of Cheese Straws my husband baked in the afternoon while I finished decorating our Christmas tree.
Charlie actually made a batch of Cheese Straws on Saturday, but between children and supper club, they disappeared quickly. So he made a double-batch on Sunday.
The recipe is from Elizabeth Gwin of Starkville, and she told me when she gave it to me two years ago that it was supposedly “the original” recipe for Cheese Straws. I add 1⁄2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the recipe when I make it for a little extra zip.
Later on Sunday, I came across a recipe from Ina Garten’s new cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?” that sounds like a more grown-up version of Cheese Straws. I love blue cheese, so I’m going to try my hand at these English crackers.

Cheese Straws
1 pound extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1 stick butter (no substitute)
2 cups all-purpose flour

At room temperature, beat grated cheese and butter until light. Add flour and beat until blended. Put dough through a cookie press, using the small star. Dust lightly with salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until straws begin to brown on bottom.

Stilton & Walnut Crackers
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp
8 ounces Stilton, crumbled, at room temp
12 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cold water
1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
12 cup walnuts, finely chopped
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and Stilton for 1 minute until smooth. With the mixer on low, add flour, salt and pepper and continue beating for about 1 minute, until the dough is in large crumbles. Add 1 tablespoon cold water and mix until the dough comes together.
Dump the dough onto a floured board and roll it into a 12-inch-long log. Brush the log completely with egg wash. Roll the log back and forth in the walnuts, pressing lightly, to distribute them evenly. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 days. (Unbaked logs also freeze well.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the log into 3⁄8-inch-thick slices with a small sharp knife (don’t press on the knife; use it like a saw and let the blade do the work) and arrange the crackers on the sheet pan. Bake 22 minutes, until very lightly browned, rotating the pan once during baking. Cool on the pan and serve at room temperature.
Makes 24 crackers.

Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.

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