Crossing cultures On the Range

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I have been not exactly busy…but well, walking upstairs to my laptop is a lot of work. The main desktop is often in use when the kid is home and I tend to have other things to do during the day, when it is free. (wow, that was a bit of a sentence!!) I need to get caught up on the blogs I read in my inbox and add the comments I think when I read them! Oh if there was a way to instantly add those comments…ok, maybe not!!! lol

One of the things I baked recently was an experiment. OK, not exactly, but somewhat of one. When we lived on the Oregon Coast, my neighbor’s mom would visit from England. She’d make these amazing crispy tasty cheese twist treats. She called them cheese straws and a few times she made them, her daughter and I would try to figure out her recipe. She was of the generation of a scoop of this and a handful of that and a pinch to make it taste better. Needless to say, we never managed to get her recipe. It would completely muddle her when she’d grab a handful of flour that we’d want to measure!

I looked online, but nothing ever quite matched Freddie’s. I’m afraid it is gone with her now, but I decided to try and make them again. I used my basic biscuit recipe (what Freddie called scones) and it was too soft. Little Bear called them twists and I suppose that is what they are! The straws were good, but not exactly right. I’ll keep trying and maybe less baking powder next time…..

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19 thoughts on “Crossing cultures On the Range

  1. Hmm… running stairs to use the laptop? Sounds like a new trend in workout motivation. (Psst. It doesn’t work. I do the Same thing, and really need to invest more time at the gym. Right after i munch on some tasty treats that probably aren’t helping me any).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kris,

    There are two or three different types of cheese straws. The most modern seem to be a puff pastry version… I remember cheese straws from my youth, but sadly, no longer have that cook book. But I want in search of a recipe as I do remember they were not hard to make. This recipe is the closest that I found from 1950’s era (Britain was not long out of post war rationing and butter and sugar were expensive then). I remember the method quite well.

    The mustard mentioned is ‘Coleman English Mustard Powder’ – it is a tangy, strong mustard totally unlike its American cousin. Don’t use liquid mustard, it won’t work.

    You can substitute parmesan cheese with mature cheddar cheese, but grate it fresh… The store bought grated is too dry.

    The nutmeg can be substituted with Cayenne pepper or Paprika, depending on your preference. (I personally do not remember nutmeg, but rather a tiny bit of white pepper was put in its place)

    The rub in method is like when you make an English Crumble mix… Wash your hands in cold water and dry them to chill them down first ( hot fingers melt the lard, or butter if you are substituting, too fast).

    When adding the lard or butter to the flour, make sure it is cold from the fridge. Cut it into tiny cubes and drop it into the flour. Swirl them to coat with flour before rubbing. Then using just the tips of fingers and thumb, gently begin to rub the cubes of butter, picking up flour and raising your fingers into the air at same time to lift the mix and aerate it. It’s a bit of a knack, but you don’t want to feel the grease of the butter at any time, keep adding flour from the bowl. The granules that form will get clingy, but should not be wet. This when you add your other ingredients and mix in thoroughly through the granuals.

    The granules eventually will start to bind together, and at this point you can switch to using one hand to keep the dough moving around the bowl. You don’t want to knead it, or it knocks the air out of the dough.
    If it starts to stick to the sides of the bowl, just add a sprinkle of flour to free it up. When you have the dough all together in a ball, it is ready.

    The chilling part is essential.

    You do not want baking powder or soda in your pastry… The lightness is created by aerating as you rub-in the fat.

    You can leave your straws straight or twist them (for baking). If the dough is too dry, the twists might break, but I remember that one end of the cut strip was held with a finger onto the baking tray paper, and held while the strip was deftly twisted with the free hand, and then the other end pressed down (so you have two flattened ends, but the middle bit is not).

    Sadly, I am gluten intolerant, so I have not had these in 50 years, but I think this will be pretty close to what I remember.
    The key was to keep the ingredients cold and aerated until the baking.

    Makes about 50 straws

    150g cold lard
    150g cold butter
    450g plain flour
    150g parmesan, finely grated
    ½ tsp mustard powder
    Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    1 egg, beaten

    1. Grate the lard and butter into a large bowl, and then add the flour. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then stir in all but 2 tbsp cheese, the mustard powder and nutmeg.

    2. Add just enough iced water (probably 2 – 4 tbsp) to bring it together into a firm dough, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

    3. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry to ½cm thick, then brush with egg and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. Cut into rectangular strips 1cm wide and 10cm long, and arrange on a lightly greased baking tray. (You could also cover and refrigerate it at this point, until you’re ready to cook.)

    4. Bake for about 15–20 minutes minutes until golden brown, then cool briefly on a rack to firm up, and serve warm. They’re best eaten warm from the oven, but if you need to make them ahead, leave them to crisp up in a cool oven (100C) before removing to an air-tight container – they’re less likely to soften.

    Liked by 2 people

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