Monday, March 16, 2009

Spicy cheese straws

I thought these up after enjoying some of Harbord Bakery's kick-ass cheese straws, which these, by the way, taste nothing like. Which is a shame because Harbord's rendition probably ranks as one of my top 1o foods in Toronto (their Jewish cheese danishes rank right up there too.) That said, my version is still very good.
As usual, I've made things easy for you: Store bought puff pastry (if you can buy the real butter stuff from a good bakery these will turn out 1000 times tastier), a squirt of anchovy paste and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Then just twist and bake. 
Think of these as homegrown gourmet crackers: They will pump up your soup. They will elevate your status on the dinner party circuit. But they will not remain crunchy for long, so eat them the day you make them.
(makes about 16)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp cold water
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
1 tsp chili flakes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 pkg frozen  puff pastry, thawed
1 Tbsp sesame or poppyseeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a small bowl, mix egg and water together (this is called an egg wash). Set aside. In another small bowl, combine Parmesan, anchovy paste and chili flakes. Work the mixture together with the back of a spoon. Set aside.
On a floured surface (using the 1/4 cup or so of flour mentioned above), roll puff pastry out to a large (approx. 14 x 10 inch) rectangle. Brush with egg wash then cut in half lengthwise. Sprinkle the Parm mixture evenly over one half of the pastry leaving a 1/4 inch border on each edge. Then top the cheese mixture half with the other half of the puff pastry, egg washed-side down. Cut in half widthwise and roll lightly with your rolling pin to seal both sets of sides together. 
Using a knife, slice 1/2-inch strips lengthwise. Then, holding one end of the strip, slowly twist the other side several times. Lay twists on a greased baking sheet, 1-2 inches apart, repeating the process until all the twists are done (you'll have to do two shifts in the oven). Brush lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with (optional) seeds. Bake in preheated 400 F oven for 12 minutes or until golden brown. (Not as difficult as it sounds.)

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