It seems that every southerner I know has a cheese straw, cheese nibble, or cheese wafer recipe. In fact here are links to just a few (here, here, here) plus I’m including a picture of my family’s recipe from my maternal great-grandmother.
I’ve been lucky that Michelle has been working on perfecting her recipe. In the below picture, she added a little more flour to the puffy yellow ones (and a little red food coloring to the others to tell the difference). There wasn’t enough crunch, so she extended the cooking time and the result were very tasty!
10 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated cold and left to come to room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and at room temperature
1 cup sifted flour
2/3 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
I recommend tripling the recipe but, as most mixers can’t handle such a heavy batter, do each batch separately.
Put the softened cheese and butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer. Using the heaviest mixer paddle attachment, beat until the mixture has the consistency of whipped cream, 15 to 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift the flour with the spices. Gradually add the seasoned flour to the cheese mixture by large spoonfuls, beating well after each addition.
Roll batter into nickle sized balls and press down on baking sheets with your thumb. Bake for about 15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven until bottoms are slightly browned.
Alternatively, you could place a portion of the dough into a cookie press fitted with the star tube and press the dough onto a cookie sheet in three inch strips. Repeat until the pan is full. Bake until straws are golden brown and crisp.
Cool on pan 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container. For longer storage, place the airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
To recrisp cheese nibbles that have been stored, bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees F.
I made two kinds of savory appetizers from the Middle East as part of Victoria Avilan‘s cookbook project (see my next post for the sweet versions). In Turkey, they are called sigara bourek. I made two savory (one of meat and one of cheese) versions and both were a hit with my tasters.
I did several tests with this recipe and found that a 350°F oven, three layers of cut filo per cigar, and a small amount of filling per cigar yields the best results. The cigars stay intact and the filling doesn’t burst through the center. By not going to the edge with the filling and folding in the edges there meant they looked like cigars without compromising filling integrity. I also found that buttering each filo layer individually was unnecessary. Brushing interior layer near the filling and the top of the cigar after rolling is sufficient.
1 onion, diced
2 lb. ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon tumeric
juice of one lemon
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb box filo dough, thawed
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Sauté the onion with the ground beef in olive oil. Add garlic and spices and cook until browned—about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the moisture has completely evaporate. Let it cool down to room temperature. Stir lemon juice into meat mixture.
On a clean work surface roll out the thawed sheets of filo. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo in half to form a square and then diagonally to form triangles, leaving you with four equal-sized triangle shaped sets of dough. Take three triangles and cover the remaining filo with a damp towel. Lay out the triangles on your work surface and brush the top layer with melted butter.
Place one spoonful of the ground beef at the wide base of the dough and, tucking the edges in, roll into cigars. Brush the top of the cigars with melted butter. Continue to fill and roll until filling is used up.
Bake in a greased pan at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm or room temperature.
Turkish Feta Cheese and Olive Rolls
4 ounce feta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
2 tablespoon pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb filo dough
Pulse together in a food processor the cheeses, egg, onion and olives. Stir in thyme and pepper. Place mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use as it will be easier to form when chilled.
Using three pieces of cut filo dough, place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on the fat end of the triangle. Fold in both sides of the filo, enclosing the filling and brush with butter. Starting at the filled end, roll up pastry to resemble a cigar. Transfer, seam side down, to a lightly buttered baking sheet.
Make more rolls, leaving 1/2-inch of space between cigars on baking sheet. Brush the top with melted butter. Bake in 350 degree F oven until filo is golden, about 30 minutes.
*Note – I find feta to be a bit strong, so I cut it with whipped cream cheese. If you’re a fan of it straight up, increase feta to 8 ounces and drop the cream cheese.
Cheese sauce. Oh, cheese sauce. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
This recipe is creamy indulgence to its core. I like to serve it with garlic knots but any crusty French or Italian bread will do. Also, try it poured over poached eggs at brunch or over fresh baby spinach leaves for a salad even I will eat.
1 pound provolone cheese
1 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper
Finely dice the provolone cheese. Place the cheese and the milk together in a bowl and let sit for at least one hour.
Lightly roast the garlic in the butter and set aside.
In a double boiler, heat the cheese and milk on low heat heat until the cheese turns creamy. Whisk in egg yolks and cream and continue whisking until the mixture thickens. Stir in the garlic butter mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook and stir until it reaches the desired consistency.
For the garlic knots, use your favorite pizza dough recipe. After the second rise, divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll out into ropes. Dunk in melted butter and tie into a knot. Let rest on cookie sheet until doubled in size. Cook for 20-30 minutes in a 375 degrees F oven, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before tearing apart and dipping into fonduta.
Call me weird but I collect those little bit of cheese left over from parties and cheese boards. I’m also the one who jumps at the chance to take home the cheese tray left over after meetings.
Why? Because with a very little bit of effort, they make a delicious cheese logs. From the above pictured cheese tray, I was able to make six logs.
1 pound left-over cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup ground pecans
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 garlic clove
paprika to cover
Remove any rinds from hard cheeses. Grate hard cheeses and cut others into 1/2-inch cubes. Place cheese, wine, cream cheese, pecans and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth, approximately 2 minutes.
Remove from processor and put on wax paper to roll into logs. As my Mom says, “Don’t make the rolls thicker than a Ritz cracker.” Allow to firm up in the refrigerator briefly before rolling in paprika for a pretty presentation.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for at least 1 hour for a firmer consistency.
As I generally wait to do this until I have a lot of cheese, I wrap each log really well in wax paper and then in plastic wrap and put them in a sealable plastic bag and freeze for up to six months. Pull out from freezer the morning of your event and thaw in the refrigerator until ready to serve.