Whenever I do my holiday baking, I try to break up the deluge of sugar with a few savory (or at least, less sweet) treats, too. Everyone gets so many tins full of sugar cookies and fudge and snickerdoodles, that I always find it nice to get something a little bit different, too (although, admittedly, my tins this year will also include sugar cookies, fudge and snickerdoodles).
This year, I’m including some dark chocolate almond and blueberry clusters (a recipe that’ll be headed your way soon) and these cheddar cheese straws in my holiday tins and treat boxes. If you’ve never heard of cheese straws, no fear, that probably just means you aren’t from the South. Cheddar cheese straws are mega-popular in the Southern U.S., and for good reason—they are addictingly delicious. The best way to describe them is like a crumbly, cheesy, buttery sugarless cookie. They kinda remind me of the texture of a Cheddar Bay Biscuit from Red Lobster (random reference, anyone?). They have that melt-in-your-mouth kinda quality, but they’re spiked with sharp cheddar and a teeny tiny bit of heat from hot sauce and cayenne pepper. They’re crazy good.
They’re called cheese straws because traditionally, you fit a cookie press with a certain die that pushes the dough out in a big long log (or use a piping bag), and then you cut the log into individual 3″-4″ straws for eating. The straws are then served hard breadstick style, in an upright container, so they look like straws in a cup.
But because these savory cookies are crumbly and fragile, I’ve found that using the other dies in my cookie press and keeping them in small cookie form helps them from breaking when packed in a holiday treat tin. Plus, I think these little cheesy flowers are so much more adorable than the traditional straws.
Interestingly enough, I had my first ever cheese straw experience while visiting my husband grandmother in Canada (decidedly not Southern). She served us these little tiny cheesy cookies that I couldn’t seem to stop grabbing. I’ve yet to ask her how she came across the recipe for something that is so Southern in Northwestern Ontario, but I’m forever grateful to her for introducing me to the world of savory cookies.
If you don’t have a cookie press (although, I highly recommend getting one, they are so fun to use, and make super quick work of a lot of fun holiday cookie recipes—here’s the one I have), you can easily just form this dough into small balls and flatten with your hands or a damp fork (peanut butter cookie style) and bake them that way. For sweet cookies, I’m normally a big, fat, chewy cookie kinda girl, but for these, you really get the best experience from small, thin cookies. You want the cookies to crisp up a bit. and you want the cheese to be able to brown (yum). Think more “small cookie-shaped cracker” than “big, gooey cookie”. If you catch what I’m throwing.
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Love cheese straws, they are a party staple in my part of the world although slightly more restrained than the Southern US version! (Felicity Cloake did a perfect column on them too – http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/dec/01/how-cook-perfect-cheese-straws). Smaller shapes are a great idea and I’m now trying to resist adding these to my Christmas baking list!
HA! All the Paula Deen bashing in that article makes me laugh. They really aren’t digging her Southern style recipe. Worth noting, mine have the same flavor as Ms. Deen’s, but without the self-rising flour which makes them expand like balloons. Mine stay about the same size as pressed, which I like. :)
In related news, I wonder if the British-y connection to cheese straws is where my Canadian grandmother-in-law picked up her recipe? Canada has so many strong British ties still.
Could be! Did mince pies make it over or did they stay this side of the Atlantic?
Why do I not have a mouthful of these already?? They sound so good! I’ve been in Atlanta for over 9 years yet I’ve never encountered a single cheese straw. I obviously don’t have the right sort of friends. :)
Whaaaat?! I have never heard of such a thing! They look and sound amazing!!
My family is from the Caribbean and cheese straws is also a tradition there. As a kid I always assumed it was a Caribbean treat. But I think it may have been adopted from the Brits. And would explain how your Canadian grandmother-in-law also knows about them. I’m also Canadian and have seen cheese straws in the grocery store here. They are yummy, indeed!
YUM!! These look (as always) AMAZING, Cassie :)
I was given a cookie press for my birthday this year, but haven’t had much luck using it – I find the dough doesn’t cut off properly (perhaps a dough texture issue?) – do you have any tips or tricks for cookie press success?
When it comes to actual Spritz cookies (the usually cookie done with a cookie press), I’ve found that the size of egg makes all the difference int he world. It sounds crazy, but a medium egg=cookies that wont come out of the press extra large egg=cookies that just slop out of the die. Here’s my recipe that I’ve never had issues with: https://wholefully.com/2012/11/29/vanilla-cardamom-spritz-cookies/
Thanks so much for the tip and link, Cassie – will be trying your recipe this weekend :)
Ok, I am really going to have to try these. You had me on Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits.
I have never had these before, but I have recently been making cheese crisps out of just cheddar cheese (and whatever seasoning you choose). You just melt a little cheese on parchment paper in the oven until they crisp up like crackers. However, I am always looking for other cheesy concoctions.
I was just going to say cheese straws are really common here in Scotland! Although most people buy them.
I make cheese cookies every year for my family; they’re similar to this but a little less work. They have sun dried tomatoes, parm, rosemary, and cheddar. Check it :)
Just have to ask where you got the cute boxes! Bought some similarly sized at Target this year, but would like to buy in larger qty.
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