Do you reach for the sweet snacks or the savoury ones during Chinese New Year? I like both sweet and savoury snacks. Sweet ones like pineapple tarts, peanut cookies, kueh lapis; and savoury ones like crab sticks, hae bi hiam rolls, bak kwa... They are all so addictive and delicious.
However as I grow older, I do find myself preferring savoury snacks, or the not-so-sweet snacks. Not sure if this is an age thing or I'm subconsciously trying to reduce my sugar intake. So I tried looking for easy goodies that can satisfy the savoury craving, and these cheddar cheese sticks perfectly fit what I'm looking for. It's easy to make, savoury and cheesy yet has a light, tender and crisp texture. It is really hard to stop at just one!
GYOC - Grate Your Own Cheese
The most important ingredient in this recipe is the cheese. I recommend getting a block of cheese (I used Meadows' mature cheddar cheese) and grate your own, fresh. Pre-grated cheese tend to contain starch (to prevent clumping) and maybe some additives which may throw the recipe ratio out-of-whack.
Better to Under-Salt
The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt for every 300-350 grams of cheese. I followed the recipe for my first batch and I found the cheese sticks a tad too salty. Even X (who loves eating potato chips) found them a bit too salty as well. So I halved the amount of salt and it's much better. Hence, it is better to under-salt than to over-salt, especially if you are making the cheese sticks for the first time. You can always sprinkle a bit more salt on the freshly baked cheese sticks if you find them not salty enough, or add more salt the next time you make them.
|1) Beat softened butter, freshly grated cheddar cheese, salt and cayenne pepper on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until blended.||2) Sift in all-purpose flour, cornstarch and baking powder and mix on low until incorporated.|
|3) Use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure the dough is mixed together.||4) Transfer into a piping bag and snip off the tip so that the hole is 1.5cm wide.|
|5) (Note: I'm left-handed) Holding the piping bag at a 45 degree angle, position the piping bag just slightly above the baking sheet. Using a consistent pressure (so that the cheese sticks are even), squeeze the dough out. If the dough is too stiff, you can massage the dough so that the warmth from your hands can soften the dough.||6) The cheese sticks I piped are approximately 5-cm long. I positioned a ruler when I piped my first layer so that I know when to stop. The cheese sticks will flatten slightly during baking, i.e. become wider. Space the cheese sticks about 2cm apart within the same row; but in between rows, space the cheese sticks 3cm apart.|
|7) If you are unhappy with the piping, simply scrape off using a spatula and try again.||8) Brush with egg wash and bake for 12 to 13 minutes until golden-brown. If the cheese sticks stick together, use a metal scraper and gently cut the cheese sticks apart.|
Cheddar Cheese Sticks
- Piping bag
- Cut butter into cubes and place into the mixing bowl. Grate cheddar cheese into the mixing bowl. Let butter and cheese stand at room temperature for 30 minutes until they have softened. It is important that both are at room temperature before you start creaming them.
- Preheat oven to 185°C (conventional) / 175°C (convection). Line a baking sheet with Silpat / parchment paper.
- Whisk flour, cornstarch and baking powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Once butter and cheese have softened, add in salt and cayenne pepper (if using). Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until everything is blended together, about 3 to 5 minutes, scrapping down the sides with a rubber spatula occasionally.
- Sift in the flour mixture and mix on low until the flour mixture is just incorporated. Use a rubber spatula and fold a few times, scrapping the bottom of the mixing bowl with each fold, to ensure the dough is mixed well. Transfer the dough into a piping bag.
- Snip off the tip of the piping bag at 1.5cm. Pipe 5-cm sticks onto the lined baking sheet, spacing them about 2 to 3 cm apart. (See Step-by-Step Photos above for further details). If the dough is too stiff, you can massage the piping bag so that the heat from your hands can soften the dough.
- Whisk egg yolk in a small bowl with a few drops of water as required to make an egg wash. Brush the top of the dough with egg wash.
- Bake the cheese sticks for 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes until cheese sticks are golden-brown in colour. Transfer baking sheets onto a wire rack and let the cheese sticks cool completely on the baking sheet. Store the cheese sticks in an air-tight container.
- Use good-quality cheddar cheese as this will form the base flavour of your cheese sticks. I recommend getting a block of cheese and grate your own as pre-grated cheddar cheese may contain starch (used to prevent sticking) or other additives which may affect the end-result.
- Different cheese has different level of saltiness. It is better to under-salt than to over-salt. You can always sprinkle a little more salt on these cookies after baking or adjust the amount of salt the next time you make them.
- Recipe adapted from AllRecipes