Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cheese Straws

Cheese, Basil, Puff Pastry. All I can ask for.
Growing up in Winston-Salem meant a few odd things. In the middle of downtown there is a giant bank that looks like a penis, we are the only city in the country that has a hyphen in our name, and we have a mini historic town, Old Salem, that makes the best damn cheese straws in the land.

Old Salem is a town, roughly the size of a mall, purposefully frozen in time. So us future looking folk can get a feel of how products were made before electricity and see people in funny old timey clothes.
We had to go every year in elementary school, and while the history was interesting and it developed a fairly serious love of the bonnet within me, the memorable part was the cookies and cheese straws.
If you have never experienced a moravian ginger cookie, than your mouth is shedding a tear right now. Not drool, they are tears. The cheese straws are little sticks of crack, and it was not uncommon for a box of those straws to disappear in our house in one evening. Even if the only person home was me. Oooppps.

What drew me to this was the simplicity. Well obviously it was the cheese that called to me, but simplicity was a close second. The only thing that takes some thought is defrosting your puff pastry. Making sure they cook up flakey and delicious, you cannot rush defrosting. There are many variations, if you want to add cayenne to spice them up, different herbs or seeds to deepen the flavor, there really is no end to what you can do. To defrost puff pastry you can leave it in the fridge overnight (at least 8 hours) or sit it on the counter for an hour or so. It should be soft, but still cold.

As far as puff pastry, Martha Stewart doesn't even make her own. If Martha doesn't, neither do I. Essentially this decadent dough, consists of pastry dough wrapped around a block of butter and folded slowly over many hours, which creates light buttery layers. Sure that sounds like what I imagine heaven to taste like, but who has the time to make it? The french, thats who.

I use pepperidge farm puff pastry, but hope to find a better alternative. Pepperridge farm uses HFCS, which I prefer to keep out of my body, but am limited by the options available. Trader Joes has a great puff pastry, as does whole foods, though the price difference at whole foods is noticeable.

If you are looking for something to serve at a party, or need an appetizer that is simple yet fancy, look no further. These puppies are it.

Cheese Straws

The Goods: Serves 6-8 as appetizer
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated (Use a food processor for quick grating)
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
A good dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper

The Deal:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Be sure you puff pastry is fully defrosted and fold out onto a smooth surface. If it cracks, pinch the cracks together and use a rolling pin to smooth out into a 10 inch square. Evenly sprinkle cheese, basil, sesame seeds, salt and pepper on the pastry. Using another sheet of parchament, place it over the pastry and use your rolling pin to gently press the cheese mixture into the pastry.
The dough and cheese before slicing and baking
3. Cut into thirteen 3/4-inch-wide even strips. Holding opposite ends of the strip, gently twist the pastry so it forms a twirl, then transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining strips. The cheese mixture many crumble off, no worries, just place the twist on the baking sheet. Once you have twisted all your sticks, press any cheese into places that lost some. They do not need to look perfect, in fact a few of mine split in half. A little twist goes a long way.

4. Place baking sheet on the upper rack of your oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Reverse the position of the baking sheet to the lower oven rack halfway through. Remove from heat and serve warm.

They will keep in a airtight container for 48 hours, but are best served hot. Let cool completely before storing.

1 comment:

  1. Luscious! Last night I ate Moravian Cookie Crusted Salmon on sweet potato pancakes. That's a great new use for such a wonderful cookie. A touch of ginger on the salmon was amazing. You can try it at Milner's in Winston-Salem, the city with an envious skyline.