Cheese Straws

the beginner's cookery book 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.

cheese straws Cheese Straws

These are excellent for any kind of party, and also as a savoury course for lunch or dinner

.

Ingredients

4oz plain flour
3oz cheese (parmesan is best but any strong, hard cheese will do)
2oz butter/margarine
1 egg yolk
salt
pepper
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)

Method

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.

WELL.

WHERE TO BEGIN. Here are my ‘results’. I remind you, these are meant to be ‘cheese straws’.

cow vs dalek in 'cheese straw' form.

My comments.

– 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.

Conclusion
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

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18 responses to “Cheese Straws

  1. vintagecooking

    Well done on yr first post!

    I’ve never really liked cheese straws – they usually seem to be too dense for my liking, or not cheesy enough. I would like one with blue cheese – do you think that’s possible? ISTR having them with marmite on as well? Did that really happen?

  2. I think the real solution is just ‘cheese and biscuits’. Fck washing a cheese straw.

  3. vintagecooking

    Could you edit post so that year of publication is included, and in the tags?

    thanks, the anal one.

  4. I maintain they were tasty! It was NO TROUBLE to scoff them. Mmm!

  5. year of publication is included, oh anal one! But I shall change tag, yes.

  6. These sound tasty. I can’t really cook though, so do you think it would work if instead, I sliced some cheddar into strips, then ate the cheddar?

  7. Well, I don’t think the blue cheese is at all an option so yes, slice some cheddar, then eat it. Alternatively, like, they’re called ‘cheez strings’. Cha!

    I now note that the tag ‘fail whale’ is one of the largest. Yikes. We’d best try sort that out…

  8. vintagecooking

    Ha, it is clear now that I didn’t read the entire post!

  9. belle le triste

    for the cheesy blobs i make at the grebt yule feest, i QUADRUPLED the cheese content in the original very tepid recipe and also went with super-powerful cheese mix (ie add to parmesan, gruyere, red leicester and victor mature cheddah)

    (one year i octupled it but that didn’t work out so well — the whole oven went quatermass on me)

  10. oops that’s me

  11. I’m not sure anyone could have thought that post *wasn’t* you, to be honest!

  12. e, it’s in the Good Housekeeping book my mum had, but always with strong cheddar cheese and I add more cheese on top of the rolled pastry before it’s cut – not in to straws but little biscuits. Very popular, but I have to say the egg yoke is often not enough liquid and you need to add some milk. Roll the left over pastry out into an oblong, ‘butter’ with Marmite, roll into a ‘Swiss roll’ slice so that you have little swirls and bake for about 10mins – yummy!

  13. Katy – sounds great. Very savoury!

  14. travelingwilbury

    I made some good ones with just flour, butter and cheese.

    http://travelingwilbury.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/cheesy-feet-and-offspring/

    The recipe is quite classic so it’s very probably a vintage one. I’ve tried them not only with Parmesan but with other cheeses as well and the recipe works quite well.
    I hope it helps!

    Gabriela

  15. LizzieGill

    I make this recipe all the time!! I love it! But i use chedder cheese instead of parmesan and NO pepper it’s too strong.
    Hope you like it!!
    Elizabeth

  16. I’ve used this recipe for 30+ years with the following adjustments: use the whole egg and add a squeeze of lemon juice. It also helps to rest the dough for 20- 30 minutes as you do with pastry. I also prefer strong cheddar in it. BTW I’m a flipping Aussie and I wouldn’t dream of mocking your coffee after tasting what they drink in the US.

  17. Good suggestions, Eljaric. I make these reguarly (my friends love them!) and I’ll definitely try your adjustments next time.

  18. I use this recipe for cheese biscuits (they don’t really work as straws I find), tripple/ quadruple the amount of cheese and use a mix of either red leicester or double gloucester and a strong mature cheddar (davidstow when I can get it as the saltiness works really well). Also omitted the cayene pepper as it doesn’t work imo, instead use COPIOUS amounts of black pepper, at least 2 tbsp I would say. Also they only need cooking for about 5 mins, if they are going golden that is too long (take them out when they are cream/ white colours they will be fluffy and crispy and not bitter, which they will be if you leave them in much longer). These biscuits are one of my favourite things to make 🙂