Cheese Straws

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Cheese straws are often made with shop-bought puff pastry, which works well as long as the straws are very fresh and well baked. Just follow the instructions from Step 4. I would urge you to try making it this way; however, making your own rough puff does require a little work, but it’s not difficult, and the cheese straws will be far crunchier and more satisfying than those made with shop-bought puff. You could substitute the Cheddar and Parmesan-style cheese for other cheeses – blue cheese is delicious, for instance – but do make sure that whichever cheese you use it’s strong. The whole point of cheese straws is their extreme cheesiness. (Image.)

Ingredients

  • 100 g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 100 g plain flour plus extra for dusting
  • a pinch of table salt
  • 55 ml cold water
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 100 g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 30 g vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, grated

Method

  1. Put the butter in a large mixing bowl with the flour and salt. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour very lightly, taking care only to knock the corners off the butter cubes and not to break them down too far – there should still be big lumps of butter visible. Pour the cold water into the bowl and, using a butter knife, stir the mixture lightly until it comes together to form a shaggy dough. It should be soft, but not sticky. Wrap the dough in cling film, press to flatten it, then put it in the fridge to rest for at least 1 hour until firm.
  2. Unwrap the dough, put it on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 30 × 15cm (12 × 6in) rectangle – it’s important that it’s a neat rectangle, though the exact dimensions don’t matter. Fold the top third of the rectangle down over the middle third, then bring the lower third up and fold it over the other two, as though you were folding a letter. Turn it 90 degrees, then roll it out to the same dimensions as before and repeat the letter fold. Wrap the pastry block in cling film and rest it in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas mark 7. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment.
  4. On a floured surface, roll the pastry out into a 2mm-thick rectangle that’s roughly 30 × 40cm (12 × 16in) in size. Brush a thin layer of egg yolk all over the pastry.
  5. Mix the two cheeses together then evenly scatter three quarters of the cheese mixture over the right half of the pastry. Fold the other half over the top to cover the cheese, making sure the edges are lined up neatly. Press around the edges to seal the cheese inside. With a very light touch, roll it out a little further, to make sure the two halves are stuck together with the cheese inside. If the pastry is getting warm and hard to handle, return it to the fridge on a flat baking sheet for 30 minutes to firm up. Otherwise, keep going.
  6. Using a pizza wheel or a large, sharp knife, cut the pastry across into 1.5cm (¾in) strips. Working quickly, while the pastry is still cold, twist each strip from both ends to form a spiral. Place on the lined baking sheets, keeping the straws a little apart as they will not get crisp if they are too tightly packed. Sprinkle the remaining cheese mixture over the top of them.
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15–20 minutes. When ready, they should be crisp and golden, and your house should smell intoxicating! Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool – if you can resist them.