Fanciful Cheese Straws
from the June/July 2017 issue of Eat Drink Mississippi
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (see cooking notes)
2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for dusting (optional)
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for dusting (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the cheese until it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency, 5 to 7 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cayenne, paprika, pepper, and garlic powder. Gradually add the flour mixture into the cheese mixture, mixing well to blend them thoroughly.
When the dough is smooth, stir in the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Spoon the dough (which will have a putty-like texture) into a large piping bag or cookie press fitted with a large star tip. Slowly pipe 3-inch-long strands of dough, shaping them curvaceously if desired, onto the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 1-1/2 inches apart.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Remove the cheese straws from the oven and, if desired, dust them with additional cayenne or paprika. Place the cheese straws on wire racks and let them cool for 7 to 10 minutes.
Store in an airtight container with parchment paper in between the layers to protect from breakage for up to 3 days at room temperature or 5 days in the refrigerator.
Cooking notes: Butter softens fast when cut into slices and placed on a warm plate. Thinner portions of cheese straw bake in less time, so watch the oven.