Pastime: Delicious cheese straws from a cookie exchange

A Pastime of my past surfaces each Christmas.

By Maylon T. Rice

It is more about an event and yet the culinary treat that came my way for simply moving a few card tables and pieces of furniture around, makes me write this after a half century of memories.

Of my many duties as a Printer’s Devil at the Eagle, I was on occasion helping move furniture, painted signs, mattresses and box springs, even washing a car or truck for the management team which back then included the families and households of W. L. Love, Oscar King Littlefield, James P. White, and Bob Newton.

One Christmas, I was shanghaied to help move some furniture and collect some folding card tables from an across town residence to take to the Newton household for a “cookie exchange,” a term that was new to me.

After a couple of hours of work on an afternoon before the Saturday “cookie exchange,” I was met with a whiff of the most amazing aroma – a cheesy and cookie sort of concoction coming from the small galley like kitchen in the home on the short dead-end street in Warren.

I remember Lee Newton, who has directed my couch moving and table setting activities, and a classmate’s mom, Mrs. Sue Whaley, Dr. Whaley’s wife, were both hovering over a couple of cookie sheets fresh out of the oven. 

“Would you like a cheese straw,” Lee Newton offered. 

I said yes. And I was in heaven with that crunchy delectable delight.

Mrs. Whaley was also “oohing and aahhing” over the batch of golden treats she said were: “Lee, your best batch ever” as I took my two little golden treats, wrapped in a pre-printed holiday party napkin and headed back to work.

The “cookie exchange,” between five or six other families, took place that following morning. You bring six dozen cookies and then take six dozen, different cookies or treats home for the holidays.

I was back at the Newton house much later on Saturday afternoon just before sunset, to help load up the folding card tables, move a couch of two around, when I was given a paper sack filled with a cornucopia of the collective treats from all the cookies at the exchange.

I ferreted out and ate the cheese straws first on my way home as darkness fell on a cold and clear Saturday night in mid-December.

Lee Newton was, by her training, a home economics major at Henderson State Teachers College in Arkadelphia, even though she taught elementary school in Warren. She and Lucy Taylor, I recall, were classmates from that program. Lee could certainly cook, but was also somewhat a very good home designer with furniture and draperies, I recall.

She made these delights without the equipment (a food processor) mentioned in this recipe – this is one of the best modern I can find that mimics her delicious offerings.


Spicy Cheddar Cheese Straws

Ingredients

1 (10-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons half-and-half

Directions Instructions

Step 1

Pulse first 5 ingredients in a food processor at 5-second intervals until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half-and-half, and process 10 seconds or until dough forms a ball.

Step 2

Note: Dough may be wrapped in plastic wrap, sealed in a zip-top plastic freezer bag, and chilled for up to 3 days.

Step 3

Four-Seed Cheddar Triangles: Preheat the oven to 350°. 

Prepare dough, and divide in half. Roll each half into a 9- to 10-inch round. Transfer rounds to parchment paper-lined baking sheets. 

Whisk together 1 egg white and 1 tsp. water just until foamy. Stir together 1/4 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds; 1/4 cup roasted sunflower kernels; 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds; and 2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds. 

Brush rounds with egg white mixture, and sprinkle with seed mixture. Cut each round into wedges of random sizes, using a fluted pastry wheel. Separate wedges about 1 inch apart. 

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes; cool on baking sheets on wire racks 30 minutes.

If you make these it will be a Pastime of spicy cheesy memories for the future. It has served me well for the last half century.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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