"My grandson asked me to make him cheese cookies," writes Bobbie Stone. "I told him I never heard of cheese cookies."
Neither had I, but who wants to disappoint a grandson? It became a quest.
Lacking any specific description, I just poked around for cookies made with cheese and found a lot of suggestions under many names, but surprising uniformity in all the formulas.
Cheddar Cheese Cookies, Cheddar Dreams, Estonian Cheese Biscuits (really) … the recipes all called for some combination of grated or shredded cheese, flour, butter and a little bit of leavening (salt or baking soda) — and that was pretty much it. A few also called for some spicy spice — dry mustard, paprika or red pepper.
Recent interest in this treat can be tracked to Food Network personality Nigella Lawson, who talked up her version — called Cheesy Feet and made with a foot-shaped cookie cutter — last year on National Public Radio and on her blog, nigella.com.
You can use any kind of cheese, depending on what you like, what you have or what’s on sale. For the greatest impact, though, I’d use a sharp cheddar. I used a Mexican three-cheese blend, because that’s what I had, but I would’ve liked less subtlety and more cheesiness.
You don’t need a mixer for this recipe — it’s best if you just work the dough by hand. It will be very crumbly — in fact, you’re probably going to suspect something’s wrong, but think positive and keep turning, folding and working it. Your body heat will help turn it into a cohesive dough. Add a few drops of water if you start losing faith.
Roll it out in small amounts. It’s not the easiest dough to work with as the edges tend to crumble apart. For this reason, don’t use cute little 1-inch cookies cutters; it will take too long to cut all the dough (this is experience talking). And if the rolling and cutting get too exasperating, just roll the dough into balls and flatten them on your cookie sheet.
This is not a dessert cookie, but more of a flat biscuit or a fat cracker. A sprinkling of sugar gives it a little sweetness. A handful would make a nice after-school snack. And if you don’t have a star-shaped cookie cutter, any shape will do, just adjust the name. I guarantee it will taste the same.
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature (not melted)
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika, dry mustard or chili powder
3/4 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Beat butter with spoon or spatula until softened. Add flour, salt and spice; mix with hands until well combined (will be crumbly). Fold in cheese.
Keep working mixture with hands until dough holds together in a ball. (This may seem impossible at first, but the heat from your hands will soften the dough and help it meld. Sprinkle with a few drops of water if dough is too dry and crumbly.)
Break off a small amount of dough and roll out on a floured surface to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with star-shaped cookie cutter. Place on cookie sheet. Gather up scraps, combine with more dough, and continue rolling and cutting.
Bake 12 to 16 minutes until biscuits are golden.
While still warm, dip cookies in sugar. Let cook on rack. Makes about 18 cookies.
Approximate nutritional information, per cookie: 80 calories, 5 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 85 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 3 g sugar, 2 g protein
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