Hello! This is my first post to vintagecookbook trials. The book I’ve chosen is The Beginner’s Cookery Book by Betty Falk. Before we engage in the debate about quite how a bloody souffle is ‘beginner’s cookery’, let’s just say that I knew nothing good could come out of this book – nothing good can come out of any book that has a quiche on the front cover. Ewwwww. But, oh well, give it a go, I thought. On a look through, I found a recipe for cheese straws.
Now, cheese straws have had a strange attraction for a while – every 70s cookbook anticipating a dinner party for 10+, or a Child’s Birthday Party contains a recipe for cheese straws – Children’s Party Cooking (to come!) indeed features a house made of cheese straws. But these days, they’re not even in the Sedexo catering catalogue. What of cheese straws? Would my experience in making cheese straws help me to find out why you never get them these days? Is it the post-Atkins mafia or… something worse? Let’s see.
These are excellent for any kind of party, and also as a savoury course for lunch or dinner
4oz plain flour
3oz cheese (parmesan is best but any strong, hard cheese will do)
1 egg yolk
CAYENNE PEPPER (“a whole bunch of terms are completely randomly in capitals throughout this recipe! I’ve got to say… I find it quite charming”, sez your correspondent)
1. Set oven to Fairly Hot, Mark 6, 400F.
2. Grate cheese finely.
3. Break egg, SEPERATING YOLK FROM WHITE in 2 cups. (Put white aside for other use).
4. RUB FAT INTO FLOUR, add cheese, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and a good pinch of CAYENNE – but don’t overdo it. The straws should have a bit of bite to them, but not a choke.
5. Add yolk of egg and mix to a stiff paste with knife. Form into a ball with fingertips.
6. Roll out lightly on a floured surface to a strip about 2.5 inches wide and 0.25 inches thick. You may find it easier to do this in two strips. Cut into strips about 0.25 inches wide with knife.
7. When you have cut about 30 straws, form trimmings into a ball, roll out again 0.25 inchesthick and make 6 rings, using the larger cutter first and the smaller inside (“WHO CARES” – s) It helps BLAH BLAH to dip the cutters into flour each time. With what remains of the pastry, make straws or rings, as you wish OH SHUT UP.
8. Place straws and rings on ungreased baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, or until faintly gold-tinted. Remove with SPATULA, and cool on wire tray.
Serve in ‘bundles’, with straws threaded through rings.
WHERE TO BEGIN. Here are my ‘results’. I remind you, these are meant to be ‘cheese straws’.
– This recipe is having a laugh.
– OK OK. More details. Do you KNOW how hard it is to finely grate parmesan with one of these flat-style cheese graters? Not one exactly like that, but not a box. The hand cramp. THE AGONY. Since discovering at like, age 20, that ‘parmesan’ was actually a hard cheese and not a flavourless dust that my parents sprinkled from a cylindrical carton onto their spag bol, I have always wondered why people BUY that stuff, instead of the actual cheese. Now I know. They were making cheese straws.
– Still, you gotta love the old terminology of ovens as ‘Hot’, ‘Fairly Hot’, etc. Too many numbers in cooking these days.
– The dough? Didn’t work at all. All I had was a completely dry mess at #5, nothing at all like a stiff paste. So I added another yolk in desperation, which helped a little, then some water, and finally got something that would roll out.
– But certainly not nicely, so the cutting into strips just didn’t work. At this point I gave up and got out the cookie cutters, as you may infer. Can cheese straws work in the shape of cows? Let’s find out.
Sadly the answer is no. TBH, I found these pretty grim. My flatmate however really liked them, and ate the lot that I couldn’t face – I think this is politeness beyond the scope of duty.
Unfortunately this book reinforces a lot of things I dislike about cookery, and shows up some very tedious attitudes towards cookery – this edition, 1973. It’s the ‘call it French and it’s not “just” beef and beer stew’, school of thought. It’s ‘Herrings a l’orange’, and it’s two pages instructing the British of the mid-60s to early 70s how to make ‘proper’ coffee. And it’s written in such an authoritarian and smug manner that no bloody wonder that in 2008 we’re a nation supping sub-standard Starbucks and being continually mocked by flipping Australians for our coffee drinking habits.
Bloody cheese straws.
Baked by Sarah