A word on puff pastry: FEAR NOT THE PUFF! Treat it as you would any other kind of dough. Store-bought puff pastry comes frozen. Defrost the sheets individually overnight in the fridge. It'll roll out like pie-dough, but since it comes pretty thin, you don't even have to roll it too much. So no excuses!
Here's the trick to making these straws cheesy: Rather than using a bit of flour beneath the pastry when you're rolling, use finely grated cheese. To make the cheese stick, use a generous coating on your surface, and sprinkle cheese on top of the pastry, too. When you roll, the cheese sticks to the dough and will integrate into the pastry when baked. After rolling once, you can fold the sheet over itself and reroll to get the dough even more cheesy, or brush a beaten egg on one side to help your topping stick. (This is especially helpful with some of the recommended additions.) Remember, always keep your pastry cold. If it gets too warm and pliable, stick it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes, and then proceed.
Roll the dough into a rectangle about 3/8" thick and using a pastry or pizza wheel, cut the dough into 1/2" - 1" strips. You can make them thicker, too, if you prefer. Holding the strips at each end, lightly twist and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. The tighter you twist, the less your cheese straw will puff. You can make your cheese straws long, short, or anywhere in between.
Bake at 375 degrees until puffed, golden brown, and lightly crispy.
And now, the options:
Add any of these items to your mixture of grated cheese, but add just to oneside of the dough, so that when you twist the straw, the topping stands out
Smoked Sea Salt
Fennel Pollen (*pictured!)
Fresh chopped thyme, rosemary, sage, or
Red Pepper Flakes
Serve with wine, beer, or, as the true cheese-lover does, with cheese!
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Image: Nora Singley)