Lee Brothers Cheese Straws

Growing up my mom used to rave about the cheese straws from Rhodes Bakery in Atlanta. I remember thinking they were only for special occasions. Indeed, with all the cheese, flour and butter – they should be. And, what could more special than a train ride to Charlotte to see Lady Gaga? I went on a wild web search looking for the recipe from Rhodes but found nothing. Over and over, I found people making the Lee Brother’s recipe and decided that I would try it. Actually, I tried Smitten Kitchen’s adapted version of their recipe – and it worked quite well. Not quite as good as the ones I remember but delicious. Two batches made plenty for the trainride and drinks in the hotel plus enough leftover for my puppy sitter.

Cheese Straws from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon half-and-half (I used cream, because I had it on hand; suspect milk would work just as well)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.

3. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza or pastry wheel; both worked great), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet (though I lined mine with parchment), leaving at least 1/4-inch between them. The dough may sag or may break occasionally in the transfer, but don’t be concerned — just do your best. The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.

4. Bake the straws on the middle rack 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.

5. Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days. They will not last an hour at a party.

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