If I were a mouse, my nose would always be snapped in the trap containing a fresh piece of fine cheese. What is it about me and cheese? You can find me snacking on it in some form almost every day. My refrigerator always has a few really good, fresh-from-the-cheesemonger cheeses stored in the "deli-drawer". I'm not talking about reduced calorie, low-moisture, part-skim, half-the-fat, gluten-free, soy, and/or vegan cheese -- although if one is medically challenged, they are all fine alternatives. For me, I'd rather eat less of anything real-deal and delicious than more of something that wierd-science has compromised. I know I am not alone in this mindset.
On occasion, I have cheese that is at that "use it or lose it" stage. Sometimes it's because I was entertaining and I bought more than I actually needed -- I'm a "better safe than sorry" person. This week, it's because I posted ~ For the LOVE of Cheese: PLEASE Cut it Correctly ~. It's full of lots of tips for storing, wrapping, grating and slicing all different types of cheese. You can read it by clicking on the Related Article link below.
Homemade Cheese "Snacks" (cookies, crackers, sticks, wafers):
Generally speaking, making homemade cheese snacks is an easy process, and, it is a fine way to use up fine cheese before it takes a turn for the worse. Recipes typically revolve around blending some grated cheese and a few ingredients together in a food processor, chilling the mixture, rolling or forming the snacks, then, baking them. Depending upon whether the recipe calls for a hard grating cheese, a firm sliceable cheese, or, a soft spreadable cheese, as long as the cheese you've got falls into the category the recipe calls for, you are home-free in terms of making a substitution. For instance: If a recipe calls for Brie, of course Camembert will work!
Today (leftover from the writing of the above mentioned blog post), I've got some great white horseradish cheddar. Feel free to substitute your favorite cheddar, or, any other firm, moist, sliceable cheese: Swiss or Gouda for example. I'm sure you get the point I'm trying to make.
My cheddar is nowhere near the "use it or lose it" stage, but these cheese sticks are so good I'm making them anyway. Yancey's Fancy New York State artisan cheeses are some of my favorites -- especially their many cheddars (and other hand-crafted domestic cheeses too). Imagine aged cheddar and spicy horseradish combined into one great cheese. Yancey's has developed special curing techniques no longer commercially available in cheddars from larger cheese makers, and, they are the largest manufacturer of fresh cheese curd on the East Coast, utilizing the local milk supply, which offers some of the highest-quality milk in the USA!
Please pass the homemade horseradish-cheddar cheese sticks!
And please, don't confuse these cheese sticks with cheese straws -- those twisted, super-crunchy, airy puff pastry snacks (which are great too). These cheese sticks are crunchy on the outside with a bit of chew in the center, a whole more cheddar flavor, plus, a pleasant, spicy warmth that lingers in your mouth and takes over the back of your throat with each addictive bite. For the most part, I serve these alone as a snack/appetizer with cocktails, but, they sure do pair up well with a bowl of tomato soup or a spinach salad with a lot of crispy fried bacon in it!
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dry English mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, preferably butter-flavored, chilled, cut into chunks
4 ounces Yancey's Fancy horseradish cheddar cheese, grated, about 1 1/4 cups (Note: Because grated cheese can be inaccurate to measure, weight is important, so, if you have a kitchen scale, now is the time to use it.)
1/2 cup buttermilk, plus up to 2 additional tablespoons, only if necessary
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
4-6 drops Tabasco
2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing tops of cheese sticks
about 1/4 cup freshly and finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for topping cheese sticks
~Steps 1, 2 & 3. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, using a series of 5-6 rapid on-off pulses, thoroughly combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt and cayenne. Add the shortening.
Using a series of 5-6 rapid on-off pulses, "cut" shortening into dry mixture until coarse crumbs have formed.
Add the grated cheddar to the workbowl and using a series 3-5 rapid on-off pulses, give the mixture a rough stir.
~ Step 5. With processor running, add the buttermilk mixture, in a slow stream, through the feed tube. Stop adding liquid and stop processor the second a soft, sicky mass/ball of dough forms. Add additional buttermilk only if necessary.
~ Step 7. Cut a sheet of parchment to fit the bottom of a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan. Place the parchment on a large pastry board (do not skip using the pastry board) then place the baking pan in the refrigerator to chill. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Immediately:
~ Step 8. Working as quickly as you can, form the dough into a rough rectangular shape and place it on the parchment. Lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour. Note: This is probably all the flour you will need, but, if you need a bit more during the rolling process, add it.
Using a small rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12" x 8" rectangle. Use the side of a 12" ruler to gently push the sides into an almost perfect rectangle. Use the ruler to measure, and, use the blade of the ruler to lightly score the top of the dough into 1" x 4" sticks.
~ Step 9. While dough is chilling, melt and cool the butter, grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
~ Step 10. Remove dough from refrigerator. Using the ruler again, gently "chop" down between the score lines, to separate the cheese sticks without cutting through the parchment or spreading them out.
Return pan to refrigerator and chill another 15-30 minutes.
~ Step 11. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush tops with butter, then sprinkle the grated cheese over all:
~ Step 11. Using a sharp spatula, carefully, but working as quickly as you can, begin separating the cheese sticks, placing them on a cooling rack as you work. They will be delicate, but no so fragile that they will break apart.
Allow to cool completely, uncovered, on rack, for several hours or overnight. Overnight is best. Cheese sticks will continue to harden/crisp up as they cool:
Special Equipment List: food processor; cheese grater; 1-cup measuring container; rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; small rolling pin; an impeccably clean 12" ruler (Note: I have two architect's rulers that are only used for for culinary purposes. They get washed in hot soapy water, just like the rest of my kitchen gadgets.); pastry brush; microplane grater; sharp spatula; cooling rack
Cook's Note: Two days ago, using some leftover Brie from my "cut the cheese correctly" post, I made another one of my family's favorite homemade cheese snacks too. These are actually more like rich, buttery cookies, so I refer to them as shortbread, and they pair perfectly with paper-thin slices of cured meat and fresh fruit. You can find my recipe for ~ Savory & Peppery Triple-Creme Brie Shortbread ~ in Categories 1, 2, 20 or 21!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)