Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cheese Straws (Cooking Post)

I don't really cook.  I spent four years in New York and I managed to never use my oven.  And in New York, you really don't have to cook because there are so many restaurant or delivery options.  I have a distant memory of trying to make fudge when I was in elementary school and I misread the instructions and put the butter for greasing the pan into the fudge.  When I tasted the fudge afterwards I almost threw up it was so gross.  

So anyways, I moved to a different city and started a new job this year.  Even though I was so miserable at my old job and was working crazy long and hectic hours, a sick part of me kind of misses the old me.  Sometimes I wonder who the real me is - like did those crazy conditions bring out the raw and most inner part of me?  I sometimes miss my cynical, sarcastic and bitter old me.  I know that's so wrong.  I guess I'm just trying to rediscover what normal life is now - kind like an ex convict getting released from prison and having trouble adjusting to life outside.  So now that I have actual free time in the evenings and work free weekends (so far - knock on wood!) I've been trying to pick up some hobbies other than my usual tv, internet, products/makeup, and my pug.  That plus I'm part of my work's holiday party planning committee (ugh).

So I was browsing some random holiday planning and crafts websites and came across these amazing cheese straws on Martha Stewart's website.  Unfortunately this looked waaaay too complicated for newbie me.  So I found a much simpler Epicurious recipe which got great reviews.  And then once I found these I became obsessed and all I could think about were making the cheese straws.  I also want to make an advent calendar for my niece and nephew but that's another story.

So I ran out to get supplies (I didn't even have any baking sheets!) and started cooking.

First I got all the ingredients together.  I then realized that I didn't have a cheese grater.  And so I grated 4 ozs of cheese with a vegetable peeler.  A few nicks and a long time later, here is a plate of my efforts along with 1 tbps sized pats of butter.  (Sidenote - I used to always wonder what crazy person would buy unsalted butter (I'm a salt fiend) and I realized that it's useful for baking/cooking.)  Butter and cheese.  KEY.

The mixing bowl has the flour, salt and cayenne pepper.  I added extra cayenne pepper based on what people said in the reviews.  And a little salt.  I told you already, I'm a salt fiend!
The instructions said to throw this into a food processor until it's like corn meal.  Uh another problem - I don't have a food processor.  So after a long and tiring process of smashing everything together slowly my forearms were aching and I had this.  Then I realized that I don't know what corn meal looks like.  Corn meal?  What is that even?  Is that what makes corn bread?  Mmm, corn bread.  I just stopped when the mixture turned into something that I would imagine corn meal to look like.
Then I'm supposed to add in milk until the dough becomes a ball.  Uh, my dough did not look ball-like at all. I even tried spooning it to look like a ball but no luck. 
So then I floured my hands and decided to take matters into my own hands!  And voila, BALL!.
I was so proud of myself.
Look at that nice round BALL-like shape.
I still obsessed over the look of Martha Stewart's beautiful cheese straws and so I thought I might be able to do something similar with the Epicurious recipe by twisting the pieces.  Here's my attempt at twisting the pieces.  As you can tell I had better luck with some pieces than others and had very inconsistent results.

Ugh - look at those dinky little misshapen ones I messed up on.  And this is after I rolled them out again and re-twisted.  At this point I gave up and just said screw it.
Ah but look at that beautiful perfectly twisted one on the left!
Cooking in the oven!
My apartment smelled sooooo good as these were cooking!  My pug has had severe allergies that were escalating and so I started her on the hardcore meds the vet prescribed for a short period to break the cycle.  She was out and not even the delicious cheesy aroma could wake her up.  Poor lil puggy.

And after about 17-18 minutes - voila!  Cheese straws!  Oh man I was disappointed that the cheese straws didn't maintain their twisted shapes after all my efforts.  

I put them on paper towels to absorb the grease on the bottom.  Then of course I had to taste one.  Look at that baby.  This was DELICIOUS!  Soooo good.
And then I had another.  Nom nom nom.
I think I'll make another batch later this weekend for my family.  If possible I want to make the straws thinner, like those very long and thin bread sticks that you get at restaurants sometimes.  Now that I know that the twist doesn't show much once it's cooked, I'll try it thinner and longer without a twist next time.  It's just hard to keep it too long and thin because the dough is quite delicate and difficult to transfer to the baking sheet.

So I'm very pleased that my first cooking effort in a while was fairly successful.  And now I feel slightly ill from eating too many of these delicious cheese straws.  Definitely give them a try!  And if any of you are better in the kitchen than me and try out Martha Stewart's let me know how it goes and how it tastes!

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