These delicate, crumbly, cheesy, buttery spiced crackers are popular in the South but should be required snacking everywhere.
And while they’re mostly about the cheese, the crackers would have one-note richness without the added pizazz of some backup spices: sweet, peppery paprika and cayenne. These give the cracker interest, back up the extra-sharp cheddar’s bold flavor and add pleasant heat.
To make a version that mimicked cheese straws’ signature decorative stripes without using a cookie press, we rolled out the dough into a square and made lines with the tines of a fork before cutting the dough into strips and baking.
Using a food processor to buzz the grated cheese, chilled butter, flour and baking powder together resulted in crackers with a short, extra-tender texture.
SOUTHERN CHEESE STRAWS
Start to finish: 1 hour, 5 minutes
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
11/2 cups (71/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons ice water
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Process the cheddar, flour, butter, salt, paprika, baking powder and cayenne in a food processor until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 20 seconds. Add the ice water, and process until a dough ball starts to form, about 25 seconds.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter, and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Using your hands, pat dough into a rough 4-inch square. Roll dough into a 10-inch square, about 1/4 inch thick, flouring counter and dough as needed to prevent sticking.
Position dough so one side is parallel to the counter edge. Using the rounded side of a fork, drag tines across entire surface of dough to make decorative lines. Using a pizza cutter or chef’s knife, trim away and discard outer 1/2 inch of dough to make a neat square. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces perpendicular to lines. Working with 1 section of dough at a time, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips in direction of lines.
Evenly space cheese straws on prepared sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Bake until edges of straws are light golden brown, 35-40 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.
Let straws cool completely on sheet. Serve. (Straws can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week.)
Nutrition information per serving: 52 calories; 33 calories from fat; 4 g fat (2 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 73 mg sodium; 3 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 1 g protein.