Cheese Straws

Salty, smoky, and packed full of cheddar cheese punch these cheese straws are sure to be a hit side for soups or as a snack cracker anytime. 
Cheese Straws recipe from
One of the facets of a small town is that everybody knows you. If this were Mayberry, I could walk into the corner store, chat it up with Joe behind the counter for ten or twenty minutes like we're old friends, because we are. I went to school with some member of his family, stole a catfish from his pond when I was five, and he likes to tell me stories about my daddy when he was my age. Living in a big city the best I get is waitress at the local pub who knows my usual order. Not exactly poetic. 

It turns out if you just go to the grocery store four times in 24 hours your cashier will learn your name, ask how to pronounce it, and demands samples of the cake that has caused all these visits. Yes, one cake required four trips to the grocery store. Yes, the cashier, the deli man and I are now on a first name basis. It's an accomplishment for a national chain grocery store. It turns out I'm not very good at making shopping lists. I bought all my ingredients on trip one, but not parchment paper. Trip two had me a little frazzled, with a mad dash to beat the clock while my batter sat waiting. I baked my cake and made the filling but had to make a third trip to get the marzipan to top it with. The fourth trip was for cling wrap. I mean REALLY! I was half tempted to buy six of everything in the baking aisle to keep from coming back. Not that a woman in black tights, an over sized tee covered in flour, eggs, and cooking oil isn't adorable, but by the time Saturday night rolled around I had one finished cake, a headache the size of Texas and nothing to eat for dinner it was past embarrassing. I couldn't face grocery store Joe again. He'd already seen me wearing the same outfit, getting consistently more dirty, and the last time I had pastry cream in my hair! I prefer to reserve that kind of crazy for my close and personal friends. 

For the sake that all I had was a cupboard of baking supplies, I'm rather proud of myself for this little number. I dug out my frozen fresh basil from last summer, and pulled together random odds and ends for a makeshift tomato basil soup and good ol' southern cheese straws. I love pulling something out of thin air. The cheese straws are perfect, and just what I wanted after a long day of snacking on cake scraps and pastry cream. Using solidified bacon grease instead of butter adds such a delicious smokey quality that I adore in savory dishes. Anytime I cook bacon I always keep the grease in a tub in the fridge for cooking later. It's practical really. Recycle, reduce, re-use. :) So long as it reduces the trips where I look like a wreck in front of Joe, I'm all for it. 

I'm sorry not to share the cake recipe here. I cannot share until July when I host the Daring Bakers Challenge! Until then the recipe is top secret! But please enjoy the cheese straws, and join the daring kitchen if you haven't already! 

Cheese Straws

1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces solidified bacon grease (or butter, but I say that begrudgingly)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pork rub
1 tablespoon half-and-half

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine the cheese, butter, bacon fat, flour, salt and pork rub in a stand mixer. Mix on a medium speed until the mixture forms a sandy consistency. Add the half-and-half and knead into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. Cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide. Gently transfer the strips to a parchment paper lined cookie with a 1/4-inch between them.

Bake the straws for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.