Monday, December 10, 2018

Say Cheese! And Merry Christmas!

 For the past several hundred years, every Christmas I've done my "Rosiethon."  The Rosiethon was a frenzied, highly choreographed baking whirlwind in which I baked around the clock for several weeks during December, producing three dozen or so of my favorite sweet concoctions.  On Christmas Eve, I delivered these long-awaited baskets of cookies, candies, and confections to friends, neighbors, family, and those deserving of my considerable talents.  Sadly, not any more.  I gave it up, folks.  However, if anyone's interested in my little sweet Christmas treats, I have links at the end of this post which will take you right back to the combat zone.

Feeling a bit wistful this year, I decided to make a few forays into the Christmas Kitchen and produce these savory amuse bouches.  I have cheese straws, cheddar crisps (a riff on the cheese straw), and sausage balls.

Cheese straws are part of the Southern experience.  A staple in Southern entertaining, the cheese straw is mandatory at receptions, showers, and potlucks, and at Christmas time, the straw invariably finds its way into decorated tins for gift-giving or onto the appetizer table at holiday parties

Most every Southerner’s grandmother had a recipe for cheese straws, usually handwritten on a 3- x 5-inch index card and tucked into a file box.  And every Junior League cookbook throughout the South will boast a recipe for the ubiquitous cheese straws.  The ingredients pretty much stay the same – cheese, butter, flour, and seasonings; although, the ratios, brands, and shapes may vary.  However you make them, I’ve yet to find a cheese straw I didn’t like.

I have three cheesy recipes for you, but first, a few helpful tips:
·       Use extra sharp cheddar.
·       Grate your own cheese.  Do not buy a pack of shredded cheese.
·       I grate my butter while it’s still cold, then let it come to room temperature for use in the recipes.  This way, it’s easier to incorporate uniformly into the dough.
·       Dough should be chilled so it doesn’t spread when baked.

I found this traditional recipe for cheese straws in Mama Hawthorne’s ancient recipe box.  They’re rich and savory with a peppery bite.

  Cheese Straws
(Makes about 5 dozen.)
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups flour
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp dried mustard
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
Heat oven to 350°.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cayenne, mustard, pepper, paprika, and salt.
Grate cheese into bowl of stand mixer.  Using paddle attachment beat with butter until smooth.  Slowly beat in flour mixture.
Spoon dough into a zip-lock bag and cut a ¼-inch tip in the corner.   Pipe 2-3-inch strips onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  If you like, take a fork and make decorative stripes down the length of the straw.
Bake until golden, about 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.
Cool on racks.

 What could be more Southern than these Sausage Balls?  Combining biscuit mix and sausage, they're the perfect Southern appetizer.
Sausage Balls
(Makes about 6 dozen balls.)
1 pound ground sausage
(I recommend Jimmy Dean’s hot sausage.)
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 10 oz.)
3 cups Bisquick
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
Heat oven to 375°.
Mix all ingredients by hand in a large bowl until well-combined.  Roll into small, tight balls, about 1-inch diameter.  Place on baking sheets lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake about 20 minutes, moving balls with spatula halfway through to prevent sticking.



 My last recipe, for Cheddar Crisps, takes the cheese straw and elevates it to a whole new level.  The basic recipe for cheese straws is there, but it has a secret ingredient - Rice Krispies.  These were Mr. Hawthorne's favorites.  After I made them the first time, he asked for the recipe and has made them three times already.  All!By!Himself!

Cheddar Cheese Crisps
(Makes about 4 dozen.)
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup flour
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 cup Rice Krispies
In a small bowl, mix flour, paprikas, cayenne, and salt.
In a medium bowl, work cheese and butter with a fork.  Gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in Rice Krispies until evenly combined.  Hands work best here.
Cover and chill mixture for at least 2 hours.
Roll into small balls and place on ungreased parchment-lined cookie sheets.  Using a fork, press down and make hash marks on each ball.
Bake at 325° about 22 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.
Cool on wire racks.

And now, The Rosiethon...

In case anyone has the inclination to pick up the baton, here are the links to some of my favorite Christmas Creations from The Rosiethon:


 Chocolate Pixies

 Pecan Pie Bars

Nut and Berry Bark

Dixie Peanut Brittle


Mocha Toffee Cashew Bars 

 Hazelnut Truffles

 Caramel Pecan Cookies

Coconut Cranberry Macaroons

 Holiday Layer Bars

Orange Oatmeal Cookies

Orange Pecan Cookies

Kahlua Balls

Brownie Squares

Hazelnut Truffles

 Chocolate and Almond Butter Thumbprint Cookies

 Brickle Drop Cookies

 Peanut Butter Blossoms

 Chewy Toffee Almond Bars

 Chocolate Crunch Bars

 Carnation Chocolate Fudge

 Lacy Oatmeal Crisps

 Apricot and Almond Biscotti

 Lemon Bars

 Peanut Butter Coconut Bars

 Maple Walnut Fudge

 Magic Cookie Bars

Brown Sugar Fudge

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

Speculoos Buttons Cookies

 Cranberry Bars

 Scandinavian Almond Bars

 Butterscotch Blondies

Lime Sugar Squares

 Salted Caramel Pretzel Thumbprints

 Coconut Joys

 Pecan Crispies

 Chocolate Toffee

 Pecan Praline Coconut Cookies

Lemon Bars

 Lemon Coins

 Heavenly Delights

Pecan Praline Coconut Cookies

 Mississippi Mud Bars

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