Creatures Stirring

Judging from the posts I’ve been reading the past day or two, lots of creatures in blogland are stirring—and whisking and blending, too.  Here at the T&C house, I’ve been busy making Icebox Cheese Wafers, the Mister’s absolute favorite treat.  These bite-sized cracker-like savories are longtime favorites in the South.
In her book Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties, one of my favorite essayists, Julia Reed writes:
 “These days when I think of Christmas at home, I think first of cheese straws and roasted pecans. . . .And by cheese straws, I don’t mean the ubiquitous and tasteless parmesan-coated, puff pastry twists found in every gourmet shop in Manhattan; I mean ridged rectangular wafers made of the heavenly combination of cheddar, butter, flour, and cayenne pepper that melts in your mouth . . .They’re crunchy in texture, sharp in flavor; there is almost nothing I’d rather eat.”
Um, yes.  And, if you’re having them or serving them with cocktails, G&T is the way to go.  Trust me.
Now, to make these delights is easier than you might think, considering how folks down here do go on about them.  For more than 20 years, I have relied on the top-selling Junior League cookbook of all time, Charleston Receipts.
IMG_2924 IMG_2926 As you can see the recipe, or receipt as Charleston cooks prefer, is quite simple.  Using the best ingredients available is key. 
Charleston Receipts was first published in 1950, but many of the recipes are much, much older.  This recipe is my starting point, but I believe our modern palates enjoy a bit more kick or bite than in the original. IMG_2927
Apparently, I’m not alone because the charming Matt Lee and Ted Lee, of Lee Bros.  Southern foods and cooking fame, have also spiced up their cheese straw recipe, as has Southern Living, which features several lovely presentation ideas for cheese straws and wafers in its December issue. 
Here’s the adjusted recipe I’ve come to use:
Cream together in a large mixing bowl:
1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated fine
1 stick salted butter, room temperature
With mixer on low speed, gradually add:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I use White Lily)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2  tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
When the mixture is coarse crumbles, add:
2 Tbsp half and half
Mix just until mixture is smooth.  Shape dough into two logs or flat discs before wrapping tightly in parchment paper.  Then place in zip-top bag and freeze for up to two months.
IMG_2928 My grandmother always made her cheese wafers round like little cookies, and she topped each with a toasted pecan half.  I do like the idea of a little pecan crunch, so before wrapping I pressed crushed pecans into the sides of the dough.IMG_2931 These two logs went into the freezer yesterday, but tonight we decided to slice a dozen wafers to share before dinner.IMG_2939 After unwrapping, let the dough warm for about 10 minutes before slicing thinly with a sharp knife.IMG_2940 Bake the wafers at 350 for about 10 minutes.  Do not let them brown.  Remove from the oven and let them rest on the baking sheet until cool.  (Good luck with that, by the way.)  Store in an airtight container.  I’ve had middling success re-crisping these in the oven; I think it’s best to bake them as you need them.IMG_2942
I am pleased with the pecan edging.  For the next batch I plan to use three-quarters of a cup of white extra-sharp cheddar with about a quarter cup of Parmesan.
What’s your favorite holiday savory?

12 comments:

  1. Mary Royal Barnwell is a distant cousin of mine! Maybe I should make some of these for Christmas Eve... Embarrassed thar I have never made them!

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  2. Oh you took me back home with this post...which means over 30 plus years...my mother use to make these...I might just have to do that this year also!!
    My first visit...enjoying looking around!

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  3. my mouth is watering and i am SO
    making these! thanks for the recipe.
    i will substitute with some white
    vermont cheddar, too.

    yum!

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  4. Look delicious! My husband's favorite treat is icebox cookies - with the chocolate wafers!

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  5. Oh my goodness, my aunt used to make something very similar. She is not Southern, but a New Englander...hmm, I'm going to have to ask her now! Yours look positively scrumptious. I bet the pecans add a wonderful flavor and crunch. Thanks for the recipe. I'm going to have to try it!

    H.H.

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  6. looks and sounds scrumptious Paula. The white cheddar idea is tempting as well. Would this be a straight addition or a partial substitution for the cheddar? (I'm just certain others have the same burning question in mind, but would rather not risk embarrassing themselves so publicly)

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  7. Bevy, I declare you know everyone in the Palmetto State!

    Janette, thanks so much for stopping by!

    Lea and Katie, I think if you are using white cheddar it's an even substitution. As I said, I'm going to try mixing a little Parmesan in, too. And I've made a batch with bleu cheese, which I may share for New Year's.

    Quintessence, chocolate icebox wafers sound wonderful!

    HHRamblings, I bet cheese wafers made in New England are just as tasty!

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  8. Mammaw used to make these, I think. She loved to bake at Christmas time too. I think she added cayenne pepper. Mr. TC and I used to take plates of cookies around to all the neighbors. I never liked doing that but Mr. TC loved to get a quick glimpse of the insides of our neighbors decorated houses.

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  9. Love your blog and love to cook- I have the Charleston Receipts Cookbook- must try this recipe for New Year's celebrations. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Hello T&CM: This receipt made Reggie's mouth water, and he thanks you for giving him the idea for the perfect treat to serve to a bevy of South Carolinians who are coming to Darlington House for cocktails on Boxing Day. He has one question, though--do these require freezing before slicing and baking? Reggie

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  11. Miss Pynn, that sounds like the Mister! He was probably snitching cookies, too! I am having Middle and Little deliver some pies this afternoon to neighbors--I hope they don't have fingersful missing!

    Mamamagnolia, thanks so much for stopping by! Hope your holidays are lots of fun!

    Reggie, freezing isn't necessary, but the dough should be well-chilled to keep the wafers from spreading. I hope your company enjoys them as much as we do.

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  12. You should see my copy of Charleston Receipts...the rings are coming out. I've only had it since the 70,s but have never tried this cheese wafer recipe. There are so many of them. but will give it a whirl next time. I am presently surrounded by at least a couple of small tins I got as presents this Xmas....and they all taste differently!

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