Valentine’s Day is this Saturday and, this year, I challenge us all to think outside of the standard red heart-shaped box when it comes to exchanging gifts! Rather than buying the same old boring chocolates and chalky candies with pre-written messages like “You’re Sweet”, I’m going to say “I Love You” by whipping up some of my family’s very favorite treats! For my husband? Homemade cherry vanilla ice cream! For my little boy? Heart shaped pancakes for breakfast, of course! And, for other family and friends? I’m making them each a small tin of cheese straws using a special recipe passed down from my Grandmother Spree.
I began making these cheese straws with my grandmother when I was barely old enough to walk and the recipe has since become a treasured family favorite! These cheese straws are very versatile and make a wonderful Valentine’s Day treat because friends or family can enjoy them as a snack with cocktail hour (they pair perfectly with martinis, a delicious bottle of wine, scotch, etc.) and, for non-drinkers, they’re absolutely fantastic with a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade. Crunchy, spicy, and loaded with toasted sharp cheddar cheese flavor, this is one Southern snack staple that’s super easy to make AND addictively delicious!
Now, there are a few tips I want to share before you begin making your cheese straws. First of all, grate your own cheese instead of buying pre-shredded cheddar (you’ll find that it mixes better with the other ingredients and the finished product will just taste better). Next, make sure that you have a good quality cookie press with a star tip. A good cookie press will last for many years, so it’s definitely worth making an investment in a quality one rather than opting for a press that’s cheap and flimsy. And finally, if you’re pressing out the dough and unable to make one long straight line, don’t worry! Using your fingers, simply piece the dough together into one straight line and your cheese straws will come out just fine!
Without further ado, below is the special cheese straw recipe passed down to me from my Grandmother Spree. Whether you make these this Valentine’s Day or for the next fun get together you’re throwing, this is one fabulous recipe that everyone’s sure to fall in love with! Enjoy!
Makes 2 ½ dozen
½ cup butter
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Salt to taste (optional)
¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne (use more or less depending on how spicy you want your cheese straws to be)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Beat butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment until it is soft and smooth. Gradually add grated cheese, beating after each addition. Continue to beat until mixture is light and creamy. Add salt and cayenne. Gradually add flour, mixing well after each addition.
Place dough in cookie press and press dough out in long straight lines on pre-greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. With a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the cheese straws into 3 inch pieces and remove from the cookie sheet with a spatula. NOTE: Remove cheese straws from the cookie sheet before they cool, as they will stick.
Cool cheese straws on racks covered with absorbent paper towels or a clean dish towel. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Recipe adapted from the Auburn University, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service Cookbook.