Nutty, salty, crunchy, cheesy crackers—what could be better? I absolutely adore this recipe. It is easy yet a show stopper.
On top of that, this recipe is my take on a southern classic: cheese straws. As a southern girl, my go to cooking style is just that. When I get the opportunity I jump at the chance to revamp a classic southern recipe.
Every true southerner has been to a party or shower and sampled some homemade cheese straws. They are nutty, spicy (because of the use of red pepper), baked crunchy little cheese treats. Like sweet tea, cucumber sandwiches, or deviled eggs, you will can usually find cheese straw on the table of a party that is below the mason Dixon.
Although I could not find any reliable sources on the true origins of this southern delicacy, I can tell you the idea behind them (at least in my not-so-expert opinion). The base recipe is a simple, half biscuit-like mixture and half shredded cheddar cheese. You pipe out the cheese mixture onto a sheet pan and bake them until nice and crispy.
Since you use shredded cheese, it is very easy to swap out cheddar with any comparable semi-hard cheese. To make my version a bit more fancy (cue my favorite Reba song), I swapped out the cheddar for Spanish Manchego cheese. Manchego is close to the top of my list of favorite cheeses.
I wanted to take the flavors a little further and balance the cheese flavor, so I crisped up some prosciutto and tossed it into the mix. You do not have to toss ham in, you can keep the prosciutto soft and serve it on the plate with the cheese crackers. I also thought a note of sweetness would be nice, so I plopped a jar of fig jam next to the platter.
The result, a slightly updated classic that everyone at the party I attended loved just as much (if not more) than the tried and true original version.
As with most of my recipes, this one is interchangeable. You can use any semi-hard cheese, toss in something extra, pair the finished crackers with any cured meat, and use any type of jam you would like. Challenge yourself and see if you can come up with your own winning flavor combination.
- 1 ½ Cups of All Purpose Flour
- 1/2 Pound of Manchego Cheese, cut into small cubes
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- ¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper, also known as red pepper
- ¼ Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, softened
- Optional: 4 Ounces of Good Prosciutto Ham
- For the plain cheese straws:
- In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients until combined.
- Next add the cheese and butter. Process until dough becomes smooth and has the texture similar to Play-Doh.
- Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
- After the dough has rested, pack it into piping bag fitted with a medium star shaped tip.
- Pipe long ribbons of dough across a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You want the ribbons to sit approximately an inch apart.
- Next, cut the ribbons into six-inch lengths.
- Repeat with remaining dough. If you do not have enough sheet pans, you can bake and then fill the pan again until all of the dough is baked.
- Bake for about 13 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown.
- Let the crackers cool before serving.
- Optional: Serve on a tray with fresh prosciutto on the side and a jar of fig jam.
- For the variation with prosciutto inside of the cracker:
- In a small pan, over medium heat, crisp your prosciutto ham.
- Once the ham is crispy like a piece of bacon, remove it from the pan and drain on a plate of paper towels. Allow the ham to cool while you prepare your dough.
- Prepare your dough according the directions above. Stopping at step 3 above.
- Crumble you crispy prosciutto, and fold into the dough with a large spoon.
- Once the ham is evenly distributed, pick up at step 4 above. Cover the dough and allow to rest.
- Since there is ham in this dough, you will not be able to pipe it.
- Form the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface.
- With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until approximately 1/4 inch in thickness.
- Slice the dough into the desired shape, I recommend squares or squared strips like pictured above.
- Bake the cookies according to the directions above.