In a childhood that allowed frequent attendance at Southern weddings, the wedding reception refreshments were predictable and often memorable. Cheese straws were always served, usually in long thin form produced by a cookie press. The crisp salty cheesy treats were delicious.
In the late 1980’s, I was discussing a wedding reception menu with the blonde lady who was the catering director of Raleigh’s grand Velvet Cloak Inn (now torn down and replaced by NCSU student housing). I mentioned cheese straws. The blonde lady was appalled. “No one does them any more,” said she. I pressed for cheese straws. She flatly refused to provide them.
When we lived in South Carolina, fortunately I encountered incredible cheese straws again. Now in the form of cheese wafers holding a single pecan in the center, they were made by Lancaster cook Iris Hinckley whose baked goods are famous. I found she used a Saveur recipe based in turn on a recipe from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen (2013).
The cheese straws were included as hors d’oeuvres at our family Thanksgiving. The family is not used to hors d’oeuvres at this meal so many cheese straws were left over, which suits me just fine. I am nibbling my way through the fabulous leftovers.
Some people like pecans, others do not. Put the pecan in the middle if you like, or leave it off. Either way these are delicious.
Recipe doubled from the Saveur recipe for Pecan Cheese Wafers.
cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 ounces (half a stick) of unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 cup pecan halves
Pulse flour, salt, and chile flakes in a food processor until combined. Add cheese, butter, and cream; pulse until dough just holds together, about 10 seconds. Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.
Heat oven to 325°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into two 10″ x 12″ rectangles about 1/8″ thick. Using a 2″ round cutter, cut out disks. Using a spatula, transfer disks to parchment paper-lined baking sheets; gather and reuse scraps. Lightly brush bottoms of pecan halves with egg white and press into tops of wafers. Bake until firm and crisp, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.