Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Can't Get Enough Cheese Wafers

There are a great many names and variations for this recipe. My recipe is called Cheese Wafers -- cheesey little shortbread-esque rounds. Plain or crunchy. Savory. Satisfying. Addictive.

The recipe is from my friend Gayle, in Mississippi. Southern girls seem to come into marriage armed with a box of handy little recipes to suit every occasion, and this is one of Gayle's. I've been baking them since 1977, when I first lived in North Carolina, but had never tasted a cheese straw.

I make them small, about the size of half-dollars when baked -- the Cheese Wafers, not the half-dollars. And I give lots of them as gifts.

I've tried hiding them from myself, but apparently I'm a lot smarter than I look. I always find them.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year for baking Cheese Wafers, because the recipe makes lots and is so, so easy -- just when time and money are at a premium.

Cheese Wafers are similar to the ubiquitous Southern-style cheese straws seen at parties and in very small bags or tins at pricey little boutique gift and gourmet stores. Sure, they're good. At $25 - $30 a pound! 

But this is all it takes to make them at home -- four ingredients you probably have in your kitchen right now!

In a matter of minutes you can dump four simple ingredients into a bowl, mush them up with your hands, roll them into little balls, smash them with a fork and bake. Oh yeah, and kids love to make them too!

One bowl . . . one measuring cup (if you don't leave yours in the flour canister, like I do) . . . one fork . . . one baking sheet (or two, for assembly line efficiency bakers.)

Four ingredients. Four items to wash. Forty-five minutes, start to finish. For about $4!

Five d-o-z-e-n Cheese Wafers!

Place a few of these on a pretty plate, in a decorative tin, a colorful box or a crinkly cellophane bag and you have the perfect gift for the hostess, sick friend, new mother, welcome neighbor, teacher or . . . just because. Add a cute and functional container (think mug, plate or bowl) you're still saving a ton of money over store-bought cheese straws!

Not the same old Christmas cookie.  Not the same old cheese straw. Something even better.

How about Cheese Wafers for Santa? He might be all cookied out by the time he gets to your house.

Step aside cookie elves -- there's a new elf in town -- with Cheese Wafers all 'round! 

2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter, softened
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese - 8 oz. block of cheese (I've had much better luck with quality name brand cheese than generic or store brand)
2 cups flour
several dashes of hot sauce - more is better! - (Tabasco, etc.)
Optional: 1 cup crushed Rice Krispies or finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix butter and cheese with hands until blended completely. Add flour and hot sauce (and optional Rice Krispies or chopped pecans) and continue to mix with hands until dough is formed. Roll mixed dough into balls about the size of large marbles and place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten balls with a fork.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until just lightly brown around edges. Cool and remove from baking sheet.  Store in airtight container. Can be frozen in airtight container for later use. Great served with cocktails or to accompany soups and salads.  Makes 5 dozen. 
Note: The dough could be shaped and flattened to cut into strips - for diehard cheese straw fans.

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CottageGirl said...

Looks quite yumm-o! Great idea instead of the sweets!

Cora said...

They are, indeed, a nice change of pace from all the sweet treats during the holidays, but just as yummy for savory flavor lovers.

renée said...

i made these for national soup swap day yesterday, and they were amazing! next time i will add more hot sauce. one gal showed up with jalepeno jelly, and it totally worked on the wafers! thanks for sharing this recipe. i plan to make them again (and again and again).

Janet S said...

I really want to try to make these.

renée said...

i'm back again for the recipe! going to make them for this year's soup swap. so good!

Cora said...

Hey, Renee!

Good to hear from you and I certainly appreciate the comment. Hosted a soup swap last week and going to another tonight. I'll be enjoying soup from the freezer for a couple of months! Cheese wafers and soup - the tradition lives!

Unknown said...

Silly question.....the two cups of shredded it by volume or weight?

Cora said...

Cary Vee, it's not a silly question at all. I often use packaged shredded sharp cheddar cheese - an 8 oz. package is 2 cups - otherwise, shred an 8 oz. block of cheese to measure 2 cups. Hope that helps.