If there was a manual for Camellia’s Academy of Fine Arts for Polite Society, there would be an entire section devoted to the proper menus for afternoon teas, bridal showers, various receptions and occasional celebratory parties. And, you may count on Classic Cheese Straws making an honorary appearance on each and every menu. Southern Cheese Straws have been the subject of hot debate for decades…every town has at least one sweet soul who takes great pride in producing the very best cheese straws. Okay, it’s not a hot debate, it’s more like a warm undercurrent. Someone remarked recently, ‘Why, I haven’t made a cheese straw since Captain and Tennielle sang Muskrat Love, I never could get them to crisp up like Gaynelle always could.’ I can’t say I blame her!
- Some say it’s too humid right now for making a decent cheese straw.
- Others think it’s because a certain baker never shared her grandmother’s recipe on her momma’s side, I think it was a deathbed promise.
- Then, some recipes survive, however the oven temperature tends to vary or a critical ingredient is missing.
- Even the fact you must be in possession of a proper cookie press has mysteriously been left out.
- In fact, it must be said- Blessed is the bride who receives a fine metal cookie press at her kitchen shower and-
- Far more than blessed is the southern hostess who has inherited her great aunt Bessie’s cookie press which had her famous cheese straw recipe hidden inside the tube.
I’m not exaggerating here. Classic Cheese Straws are highly prized and the one who literally pressed on through the ages- surviving even ‘Muskrat Love’ persists until this day! Still. I’m not going to tell you my cheese straw recipe is the best, I could get into a lot of hot water! I am going to tell you that this recipe is one of my favorites. And! I personally love southern cheese straws so much that I generally make a double recipe at least twice a year and they’re squirreled away in my freezer. I pull out what I need, put them on an ungreased sheet pan and allow them to thaw slightly and bake as directed. Winter is a great time to make cheese straws, but as my friend who probably does make the best cheese (because she does have a genuine handed down recipe) told me recently…’They won’t get crisp if you bake them on a rainy or humid day’. I agree. Try this recipe- I haven’t left anything out.
Join me in keeping this wonderful tradition alive- it’s an heirloom recipe. It’d be a shame for polite society if the tradition didn’t survive, especially if you live, like I do, where cheese straws are always welcome and the sugar cane still grows.
Love y’all, Camellia
Camellia's Classic Cheese Straws
- 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese grated= *do not use pre-grated cheese!
- 1 stick salted butter if you use unsalted add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to sifted flour
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- In a food processor, grate sharp cheddar and chilled stick of butter- doing this in batches if necessary. Put cheddar mixture in a large bowl, covered with plastic wrap and leave overnight to soften- do not refrigerate at this stage. Sift together flour, cayenne, paprika and salt (if using unsalted butter). With clean hands, mix dry ingredients into softened cheese and butter- mixing very well until mixture is smooth. On ungreased sheet pan, in batches, put dough through a cookie press with a star tip in approximately 4 inch strips. (If you don't have a cookie press- the dough can be rolled with a bit of extra flour and cut into narrow strips.) Placement is approximately 1/2 inches apart. When sheet pan is filled, chill the pressed dough briefly to retain better shape as they bake. Preheat oven to 350. Bake 15 minutes, checking after 12 minutes. Cheese Straws should be dried out but not browned. Remove to a wire rack to cook. Keep in an airtight container. Makes 4-6 dozen.
* all photographs are obviously mine. Williams Sonoma sells a wonderful sturdy cookie press. I also found several good all metal cookies presses sold on Amazon. *Camellia’s Academy of Fine Arts for Polite Society does not exist- though it’s crossed my mind…