Unlike Europe's cheese straws, which are usually puff pastry, Southern cheese straws are made with a short crust and cheese dough.
Traditional cheese straws are piped or cut and rolled. Hand-grated cheese is more preferred over packaged pre-shredded cheese.
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
8 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
8 ounces sharp cheddar or Gruyere cheese, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, soft wheat
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cut the butter into thin pieces, approximately 16 tablespoons, and beat with a hand mixer until soft in a very large mixing bowl. Add all the grated cheese and beat with the butter until the mixture is smooth. Add the Dijon mustard.
Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and cayenne pepper. Add to the food processor and pulse all ingredients together or mix by hand. Form into a ball.
Press dough out with a cookie press into straws, following manufacturer's instructions, or use the following procedure: Divide dough into fourths. On wax paper, roll each piece into a rectangle 1/3-inch thick. Use a pastry wheel to cut dough into 4-by- 1/2-inch strips. Move straws onto a silicone- or wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-12 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Tips: Grate the cheese very finely so it won't clog the cookie press. Make sure the butter is not cold and that it is soft enough to ensure that the cheese and butter mixture will be smooth and not gritty.
Every oven is different. Cook the first batch, watching carefully, and time accordingly. If the first batch is too brown, reduce heat. In some ovens, 325 degrees is a better temperature. Rotate pan halfway if not all are browned evenly.
Variation: Use cookie cutters, a pastry bag, or an indented pizza slicer to shape cheese straws. Cut into specialty shapes for special parties, or cut into coins, triangles, hearts, etc.