These cheese straws look like wispy tree branches. Wayne calls them cheese twigs, and they never last very long around here. Crispy, cheddar-flecked, and rustic, it's the buckwheat flour that lends these slender creations their convincing shade of brownish gray. To my eye, the toasted cheddar bits look a bit like orange moss - but maybe I'm over-thinking things. After you get the hang of it, these are easy to make. It might just take a practice twig or two. The recipe was inspired by a rye-thyme cheese straw recipe I enjoyed years ago from Jerry Traunfeld's The Herbal Kitchen. Think of these as a distant cousin.
Before we get to the recipe I should also say, another thing I like about these is all the ways you can use them at the table. They make a dramatic centerpiece standing upright in a small glass or jar, but are just as much fun lying down, stacked and tangled together like an edible pile of sticks.
It also occurred to me as I was making this last batch, that if you got tired of making straws, you might stamp out various cracker shapes. I haven't tried it with this exact dough, but I suspect it would work nicely. I'd keep the dough 1/4-inch thick or less, and keep a close eye on things while they are baking.
Buckwheat Cheese Straws
The buckwheat flour here gives these cheese straws a depth that others made from all-purpose flour don't have. That being said, you could certainly give these a shot using all whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, or unbleached all-purpose flour. Or experiment with other flours in place of the buckwheat flour.
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) white cheddar, shredded on a box grater
1/2 cup ice cold water
Combine the flours, salt and thyme in a bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles little pebbles in a beach of sandy flour (about 20 quick pulses). Alternately, you can cut the butter in using a knife and fork. Transfer to a mixing bowl and toss in the cheese. Sprinkle with ice water and use your hands or a spoon to stir it through and bring everything together into a ball of dough. Flatten the ball into a 1-inch thick square patty, wrap well in plastic, and place in the freezer for thirty minutes.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat, and place a rack in the middle of the oven.
I find it easiest to work with one half of the dough at a time. Remove the dough from the freezer, cut in half, re-wrap the half you won't be using immediately, and place it back in the freezer. If the dough gets too warm it is difficult to work with. On a well-floured surface roll out the remaining dough into a rectangle roughly 6x12-inches and 1/4-inch thick. Use a knife to cut 1/2-inch wide strips (see photo), each about 6-inches long. Now take a strip of dough and gently pinch it all along its length so that it is easier to roll out into a straw shape roughly 12-inches long. If the dough is giving you trouble, consider chilling it a bit longer. Place each straw on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining strips, leaving at least 1/2 inch between each straw.
Bake the straws one pan at a time for about 8-10 minutes, or until the straws look set, and the cheese is golden where it is touching the pan. Flip each straw and bake for another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Keep in mind if your straws are on the thin side, they'll bake in a flash, if they are slightly thicker they will need to go longer. Remove from oven and let cool, they will crisp more as they cool.
Sometimes I bake off half the dough, and keep the other half in the freezer for another day, but feel free to bake all of it - repeating the process with the second half of reserved dough.
Makes about 4 dozen straws.
Prep time: 60 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes