Food on the Farm, Recipe: Cheese… something

A huge part of choosing this adventure–moving out of the suburbs of Denver, and building a house and farm on family land in Arkansas–was wrapped up in wanting to be closer to the food we eat.  Where it comes from, how its made, what goes into the growing of it… all of this knowledge and hands-on experience creates, for me, a better meal.  I appreciate it more, and meals become more than just a way to get calories in.

Over the past few months, I’ve not been experimenting as much.  I cook almost every night, and several days a week for lunch (although pretty much anything I cook for lunch is so far from exciting as to not even be worth mentioning,) and while I’m constantly looking for a twist on something, I just haven’t been trying out new recipes.  I have ingredients, they go together into a pot or a skillet, and we eat.  However, as spring has come along and the farmers’ market has begun filling with fresh, local veggies, I find myself wanting to experiment and try new ways of doing things.  I’m starting to dip back in to baking bread on a regular basis (though not anywhere near as frequently as I was in the winter!)  I’ve got a bug to bake sweets, and I’m starting to gather new recipes I want to try.

Some of those recipes are, admittedly, things I may not get around to trying for awhile (vegan whipped cream) and some of them aren’t really all that exciting, except that they represent an attempt at creating at home what I can easily get in the store.

That’s where this cheese straws come in.  I hesitate to call my final product a straw, as it’s really more square-shaped, but the texture is right on with a cheese straw.  I used what I had, cheese-wise, but I think the options are endless.  Cheddar would be a good basic foundation, but goat cheese or asiago would be excellent twists.  I used pepper jack, and added predictable seasonings, but once my garden herbs are in full swing, I plan on going crazy with fresh rosemary, basil, and chives.

Cookie presses are the devil.

The recipe I based these off of (Paula Deen! What?! I know!)  was enticingly simple, even if more than a handful of reviewers seemed to muck it up quite nicely.  I made some adjustments to achieve the end result I wanted, which was something that was somehow both crispy and melting.  Next time, I will use cheddar, simply because the pepper jack didn’t pack enough cheese taste for me.

Recipe: Cheese… shapes.  Yes.  That’s call them that.


Ingredients:

1 + 1/2 stick salted butter

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 c. cheese

Pinch of salt

Cayenne, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

Onion powder, to taste

Directions:

The original recipe called for using a food processor, but mine has 417 parts, none of which I felt like washing tonight.  I combined all of the above ingredients in a mixing bowl and went to town with a hand blender.  It’ll start to come together almost like a pie crust after a few minutes.  I pressed it together in a ball and stuck the whole mess in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350.

Using a cookie press in whatever shape make your heart sing, press cheese shapes onto a lined cookie sheet.  Acceptable linings include parchment paper or a silpat.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, but start checking at 18 minutes or so.  You want them golden and crispy.

This recipe made about three batches for my half-sheet pan.  Move baked shapes to cooling racks.  Devour when cool.  Store in an airtight container.

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