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Cheese Straws with Sesame Seeds

Cheese straws are a fun, easy-to-eat and impressive alternative to cheese and crackers. Poppy seeds can be used in place of the sesame seeds. The straws can be made ahead but are especially good served warm from the oven. For a creative presentation, stand the cheese straws in decorative glasses or vases and place near a cocktail area so guests can serve themselves.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup black or white sesame seeds

Directions:

In a food processor, combine the cheeses, butter, white pepper and cayenne pepper and process to a smooth paste. Slowly add the flour, pulsing to blend. When all of the flour is incorporated, gather the dough into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter or line it with parchment paper.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and cut it into 6 equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, use your palm to roll each piece into a rope about the diameter of a drinking straw. Cut each rope into 6- to 8-inch lengths, or shorter if you like. Sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly on a sheet of aluminum foil. Roll each straw in the seeds, coating lightly on all sides. Place the straws about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until the straws are golden brown and lightly crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the cheese straws to a platter and serve warm (Or, let the straws cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 8 hours.). Serves 12 to 14.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining, by Georgeanne Brennan (Oxmoor House, 2007).