Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Southern Staple: Cheese Straws


Cheese straws are, quite simply, a classic Southern snack. Equally at home with a glass of sweet tea on the porch as they are being served at a cocktail party, cheese straws are an unpretentious but delicious choice. And while cheese straws are fairly simple in concept, the ingredient list is basically just cheese, flour, butter, salt and cayenne pepper, it is in the execution that things become tricky.

A proper cheese straw is light and dense and should have a good snap to it. It should not be too gummy or crumbly, nor should it be crispy like a potato chip. The two keys here are proper density of the dough, the proper texture/shape.

My mom (who is a frequent reader of A Trip Down South and will probably be excited that she is getting a shout-out) makes, in my opinion, the best cheese straws in the country (pictured above). They are just the right texture, which is due in large part to the use of a hand-crank cookie press. She has an electric cookie press that she tried once, but they just didn't turn out right. Whenever she makes them, it's usually only a matter of days, if not hours, before they are gone.

Unfortunately, getting your hands on some really good cheese straws can be somewhat difficult. While they do sell them at stores like Publix, they are usually quite expensive ($6 or $7 for a pretty small bag), and even those aren't as good as homemade ones. If you've got a suggestion for readers as to what some of the better store brands are, I'm sure others would appreciate it.

10 comments:

longwing said...

Trip, I picked up a cookie press last year just for this purpose. Now if your dear mother would forward her recipe I'd be most grateful.

trip said...

Longwing-
Secrets like that have no place on a public forum like a blog, but I may be able to email it to you.

componentsofenthusiasm said...

why, as a native southerner, have i never heard of or tried these?? ridiculous haha

longwing said...

trip, don't tease me now. You can post on my blog where no one will see.

Tucker said...

Those look delicious. I typically just roll out the dough and cut it into strips but I'm going to try a cookie press next time. Here's a good write-up from John Martin Taylor...

http://hoppinjohns.net/cheesestraws.aspx

DAM said...

I'll second Longwing's request for a great recipe

JeffRickard said...

McEntyre's Bakery, outside of Atlanta (Smyrna), puts out a pretty good cheese twist. Flaky, buttery, cheesy.

http://www.mcentyresbakery.com/

Jane said...

Thanks, son, for the kind write up on my cheese straws. The recipe is really quite simple - it's all in the cookie press which you can only find now on e-bay. I got this recipe from my Mom, Trip's grandmother, and I have great memories of her making them anytime we had company.

Anonymous said...

My aunt makes just the best cheese straws, using a manual cookie press (vintage). However, lately the dough is just too heavy for the press and the bottom gets pushed out. Does anyone have a suggestion for a sturdier press (not electric)?

Thanks!
Jane R

trip said...

Jane-
My mom, whose name is also Jane R., has gone through several manual presses over the past few years. She has had luck finding them on Ebay, so you might want to check there. I think they're pretty easy to find and not very expensive. Other than that, I have no idea, sorry.

Good luck.