Monday, December 19, 2011

Cheese Crispies

       Some things should be enjoyed only once a year, because if you ate them year round they might kill you.  OK, maybe not quite.  But these Cheese Crispies (aka Cheese Puffs or Cheese Biscuits) are one of those secrets out of Southern food lore that should and do only come around during the holidays.
       The good news is they are made from things just about everyone has in their kitchen (I always have to make a special trip for the Rice Crispies, but that's just me), but the proportions are a little worrying.  I wouldn't normally recommend mixing quite this much butter and cheese.  OK, just once a year.  And make sure you share.
       They pack a bunch of flavor, so are great with with celebratory beverages.  They are from the same family of salty snacks the Spiced Pecans come from, so they play well together.
       (And for those of your wondering about pedigree, one of the recipes I work from is a crumbling back-of-the-envelope affair in my mom's handwriting that mentions "oleo")

Once again, the tastiest food isn't smooth & shiny

Recipe - Cheese Crispies

baking sheets
large mixing bowl
small bowl
cheese grater (food processor is great here)
sharp knife
cutting board
(pastry cutter/two butter knives)

8 oz cheddar cheese (sharp - some or all)
6 oz butter (1.5 sticks or 12 Tbs) - cold
1.5 C flour
pinch of cayenne or 1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1.5 C rice crispies

Grate the cheese and chop the butter into small pieces.  Combine these in the large bowl with 1/2 C flour.  Set aside to let the cheese and butter warm up to room temperature.
In a smaller bowl, stir together the other 1 C flour with the spices (cayenne, garlic powder and salt).

When the butter has softened, pour the flour mixture into the butter/cheese.  Use clean hands and squish together the mixture until you have a dough (and no large islands of one ingredient).  You can use a pastry cutter or a pair of butter knives to do the cutting in.
Taste for spiciness - add more now if it's needed.

Gently fold in the rice crispies (gently to avoid making too many crispie crumbs).
Cover the dough and place it in the fridge while you're not working with it.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Working with 1/4 of the dough at a time, pinch off marble sized pieces, and form them into flattened balls.  Place them 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 10-15 min (depending on the size of your marbles).

Serve them piping hot right out of the oven, or heat them up in the toaster for something to perk you up when it is dark at 5pm.

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