Feed a snack attack with cheesy straws

Joe Keller/America's Test Kitchen via APSouthern cheese straws get a kick from cayenne pepper and paprika.

These delicate, crumbly, cheesy, buttery spiced crackers are popular in the South but should be required snacking everywhere.

And while they’re mostly about the cheese, the crackers would have one-note richness without the added pizazz of some backup spices: sweet, peppery paprika and cayenne. These give the cracker interest, back up the extra-sharp cheddar’s bold flavor and add pleasant heat.

To make a version that mimicked cheese straws’ signature decorative stripes without using a cookie press, we rolled out the dough into a square and made lines with the tines of a fork before cutting the dough into strips and baking.

Using a food processor to buzz the grated cheese, chilled butter, flour and baking powder together resulted in crackers with a short, extra-tender texture.


Start to finish: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Servings: 48

8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

11/2 cups (71/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons ice water

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Process the cheddar, flour, butter, salt, paprika, baking powder and cayenne in a food processor until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 20 seconds. Add the ice water, and process until a dough ball starts to form, about 25 seconds.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter, and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Using your hands, pat dough into a rough 4-inch square. Roll dough into a 10-inch square, about 1/4 inch thick, flouring counter and dough as needed to prevent sticking.

Position dough so one side is parallel to the counter edge. Using the rounded side of a fork, drag tines across entire surface of dough to make decorative lines. Using a pizza cutter or chef’s knife, trim away and discard outer 1/2 inch of dough to make a neat square. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces perpendicular to lines. Working with 1 section of dough at a time, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips in direction of lines.

Evenly space cheese straws on prepared sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Bake until edges of straws are light golden brown, 35-40 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.

Let straws cool completely on sheet. Serve. (Straws can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

Nutrition information per serving: 52 calories; 33 calories from fat; 4 g fat (2 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 73 mg sodium; 3 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 1 g protein.