I do not often think of myself as a Southerner. It’s not prejudicial – I am fond of the South in many ways and often eat and cook like a Southerner ought to do. I’ve grown okra, I can tie up a tomato, I know how to make a fair tea cake, I prefer my grits with red-eye gravy, and my cast iron skillet is seasoned and ready for cornbread at the drop of a hat. Why, the only things really that keep me from calling myself a true Southerner are that I have never thought of East Tennessee as being particularly Southern, and, much, much more to the point, I don’t care for cheese straws.
Don’t misunderstand me, I like the idea of cheese straws, and I even like the taste of them. What I do not like is the shape – this essential southern snack, when forced through a cookie press like a big hog through a tight sty, takes on a cylindrical, sometimes frilly edged form that I find difficult to abide.
In case you might wonder, it is not a cylinder phobia of which I am afflicted. I enjoy driving with all 4 of them firing as much as the next person, and should I find myself eating a whole carrot, I am content to nibble away as any cartoon bunny might. But in the matter of cheese straws with their delicate and tender construction, I am entirely discontent to approach the thing as one might approach a corn dog.
That delicate construction has a propensity to crumb or even break off. If the straw is made to be delicious, it will be a little unctuous and may very well leave a slight stain on one’s seersucker should it break apart. Furthermore, I subscribe to the idea that decent cocktail food should be easily eaten in one, perhaps two bites. I have seen straws that strain that rule to upwards of four ungainly mouthfuls.
Who, I ask you, would be so indelicate as to imagine that I could possibly eat that way in polite society? Why a cheese straw of such a length would most certainly tickle the epiglottis and provoke an unseemly gag or, if it did not, might open one up to very scurrilous remarks upon the absence of that reflex.
So you see my point, I am quite sure. Fortunately, the very good and sensible Mahasti also understands this woeful
dilemma. For this reason, she has proved us with a very politic solution. In fact it’s much more politic and agreeable than almost anything else I’ve heard so far this year. You see, after Mahasti assembles her base recipe she rolls it up into a long cylinder (of which, I remind you, I am not phobic) and slices it into the most delicate little rounds you can imagine.
These are cheese wafers and have the same kind of ethereal lightness that I imagined manna having when it floated down into my imagination during Sunday School.
I suppose you can take your crunchy cheese snack in whatever shape you want it. But I hope you’ll understand that while I may not have the genteel quality of a real Southerner, I do have delicate sensibilities which is the next best thing.
So Bon Appetit, y’all.
Flour Head Bakery’s Cheddar Cheese Wafers
½ lb Sharp Cheddar, shredded
4 oz butter (1 stick), soft
3 TBl water
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp Cayenne
½ tsp Paprika
1 tsp Bl pepper
2 tsp baking powder
In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a medium bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the shredded cheddar and mix until the cheese breaks down and forms a smooth paste. Add water and mix just until incorporated.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, cayenne, paprika, black pepper and baking powder.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until it forms a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, and shape each piece into a log. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Slice the log into 1/8 inch discs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, with ½ inch of space between each wafer. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the wafers from the oven, turn the oven off and allow the oven to cool for 10 minutes. Return the wafers to the oven and allow to rest in off oven for 30 minutes or until crisp. (the wafers will crisp up as they cool)
Unbaked wafer logs can be kept in the refrigerator up to 5 days, and can be frozen for up to 1 month.