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.