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Smoky and Spicy Cheese Straws

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Ingredients

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon smoked or plain sea salt

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon ground dried peppers*

½ pound grated sharp cheddar cheese, room temperature

½ cup butter, room temperature

Several dashes of hot sauce

Next to the ham hock, I’d argue that cheese straws qualify as the culinary mascot of the South. They are featured at nearly every holiday and cocktail party, their secret recipe often carefully guarded by the host. I’m happy to share, though, as their deliciousness ought not be hidden away. You will need a cookie press to make these. Easily found at kitchen supply stores or online, they can be used to make shaped cookies when not making cheese straws.

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, paprika, and ground peppers. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat cheese, butter, and hot sauce until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. On low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture just until dough holds together and ingredients are fully combined. The mixture will initially be grainy, but will eventually come together.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Leave dough to rest while the oven heats. In batches, transfer dough to a cookie press fitted with the star disk. Press dough out in 4-inch pieces onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been pressed into straws.
  4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until straws are lightly browned. Remove pan from oven and cool straws on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool for 20 minutes before serving. Store any uneaten cheese straws in a lidded airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

*Use store-bought or make your own by thoroughly washing and drying unblemished hot peppers, discarding the stems, and leaving them on a cooling rack over a baking sheet in a warm, dry area for several weeks. Discard any peppers that show signs of spoiling and transfer peppers to a lidded container when they become dry and brittle.

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