CHEESE STRAWS (about 24)



1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17-1/4 ounce package), thawed

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for egg wash

1 cup finely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 4 ounces)

coarse sea salt



1.Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 425*. Generously butter two baking sheets.

2. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14×12 inch rectangle. Cut crosswise in half to form two 12×7 inch rectangles. Brush both rectangles with some egg wash. Sprinkle cheese evenly over one rectangle and top with the other rectangle, egg wash side down. Press firmly on pastry to force out any air pockets, then roll gently to make layers adhere (rectangle should be about 12-1/2 by 7-1/2 inches). Brush pastry with egg wash and sprinkle evenly with coarse salt.

3. With a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut pastry crosswise into twenty four ½ inch wide strips. Holding one end of a strip in each hand, twist strip two or three times and place on buttered bakjng sheet, pressing ends onto sheet to keep strip twisted. Repeat with 11 more strips, placing strips 1 inch apart on baking sheet.

4. Bake strips until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, shape remaining strips in same manner and arrange on second baking sheet. Loosen baked strips with a metal spatula and transfer to a rack. Bake remaining cheese straws in the same manner. Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE: Straws can be formed up to 2 weeks ahead. Freeze on baking sheets until solid, then transfer to sealable plastic bags and keep frozen until ready to bake. The cheese straws may be baked up to 2 days in advance and kept in airtight containers in a cool, dry place. Before serving, heat the straws in a preheated 425* oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are crisp. Variations include:

Cheddar cumin cheese straws: Toss cheese with ½ teaspoon ground cumin before sprinkling over pastry, then top with other pastry rectangle. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons cumin seeds before cutting.

Spicy Parmesan cheese straws: Use 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (about 2 ounces) in place of the Cheddar and toss with ¼ teaspoon cayenne before sprinkling over pastry.


from The Gourmet Cookbook

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