To be honest, I didn’t know what a cheese straw was until my mom suggested I serve them at a shower I threw for a girlfriend several weekends ago. My mom was so taken by her own idea, she offered to make them herself.
My mom arrived the morning of the shower with cheese straws in tow. They weren’t at all what I expected – a cross between a pirouette cookie and a Cheeto. Only spiraled.
They also weren’t the product of my mom’s kitchen. [Gasp]. These were created in a magical place known to Target shoppers as Archer Farms.
My poor mom had spent the last several days on the road watching my brother’s hockey games, and consequently didn’t have time to make homemade cheese straws.
She did manage to swing into a Target ,where apparently cheese straws flow like wine and are sold for right around $2 per box. Problem solved.
The cheese straws were a huge hit at the shower. Certainly not a conversation piece, but admired nonetheless. And thankfully, nobody asked for the recipe. It’s a good thing, too. I had no idea how they were made.
And it’s a great question. I spend countless hours online looking up recipes for fun and I had no idea. I perused dozens of recipes and found several of the semi-homemade variety which called for phyllo dough.
Phyllo dough is my one of my dead end ingredients: a.) I never have it on hand, b.) I don’t know where to find it in the grocery store, and c.) I hardly know what the stuff is – much less pronounce it.
For those of you who still don’t know, phyllo dough is puff pastry and it’s located in the frozen food aisle in grocery stores. Cheese straws were my golden opportunity to try working with this enigmatic ingredient.
The recipe I found and later adapted (which is a fancy way of saying I didn’t have every ingredient handy) was from the Food Network’s Ina Garten.
Her recipe was pretty straightforward: brush the puff pastry sheet with egg wash and sprinkle with fresh thyme, Gruyere and Parmesan. Slice, twist, bake and serve. Simple, right?
One would think.
I could handle the egg washing and sprinkling. Slicing and twisting was a breeze, too.
Problems arose when I tried to turn the individual straws over on the baking sheet after 10 – 15 minutes of baking. The dough had a different agenda. It stuck to the baking sheet and wouldn’t hold its form once flipped.
After much finagling, I was able to get my straws in a row to complete the baking process. I could see layers of puff pastry emerge from the corners of each golden straw. The cheeses were melting beautifully and the woody aroma of thyme filled the kitchen. Maybe I was too quick to judge?
I pulled out the sheets to let them cool, expecting the straws to harden in the process. I waited and taste-tested, and tasted some more, yet they never hardened. They were flaky, but flimsy. The puff pastry gave the final product a buttery, layered dimension, but the true integrity of a cheese straw was missing.
They tasted great, but so do breadsticks – which is exactly what these cheese “straws” resembled.
But fancier. And messier. Be sure to have your hand vac nearby.
I would definitely buy these before I would attempt to make them again. They were good, but not worth the effort. These didn’t achieve the wow factor of the store-bought variety.
Now the phyllo dough – that I would keep on hand. Not for the purpose of cheese straws, but for tarts. Many simple yet impressive appetizers can be made with phyllo dough as the base. Or so I’ve read.
Lesson learned: just becuse you can doesn’t mean you should. I’ll still try to spend as little time in the land of Archer Farms as possible.