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Cheese Bites

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Our friend likes donkeys. Well, she’s an animal lover and finds donkeys particularly adorable, and who could disagree. We’d found a donkey cookie-cutter in my favourite cookware shop just before her last birthday, and rather than give this to her as a gift, since baking is pretty much an alien concept, I thought I’d put it to use in my own kitchen, and some freshly baked donkey-goodies would make a much better gift. Since more sweet treats, in addition to the pile already planned, seemed a little defunct, I decided on something savoury and came across the Cheese Stars in the ‘Feeding Babies and Young Children’ chapter of Nigella’s How To Eat.

Firstly, let me say there is nothing ‘babies and young children’ about these – they’re very delicious, moreish, and go great with dips, like a home-made red pepper hummous. Obviously, you don’t need a donkey cutter – the original recipe calls for stars, you could made rounds, or cut the dough into long cheese straws.

So, with another birthday approaching, and poor donkey languishing in the back of the baking cupboard, I cooked another batch and they really are too good not to share. I’ve made some slight changes to the additional recipe – I use mature Cheddar instead of Red Leicester, because I prefer it, always have it in the house, and it gives, I think, much more flavour than Red Leicester. It doesn’t, however, give the bright orange colour that Red Leicester would. I’m not too sure if this is a loss or not! The quantities I’ve used are double those in the original recipe, because once you’ve tasted one you’ll want to make sure you have plenty, and I’ve complicated the method somewhat. The original recipe calls for simply mixing the ingredients together, but I rubbed the butter into the flour, a la pastry making, which gives a good end result. Finally, you don’t need to leave the dough to rest in the fridge, but I find it rolls out better rested.

Cheese Bites (or Donkeys, or whatever) (makes plenty)

  • 100g self raising flour
  • good pinch cayenne pepper
  • 50g soft butter (i.e. butter at room temperature)
  • 150g grated mature Cheddar (the coarse side of the grater should be fine!)
  • 40g freshly grated Parmesan

Rub the butter into the flour, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the cheeses. You shouldn’t need any liquid to bind this together, it will be crumbly at first but just knead and squeeze a little and it will come together.

Split the dough into two balls, squash into fat discs, wrap each in clingfilm and stick it in the fridge for half an hour. (Splitting into two just makes this easier to roll out.) Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly oil a couple of baking sheets.

Dust a surface with flour and roll out the dough to about 2.5mm thick. Cut out your bites, clumping together the scraps of dough and re-rolling as needed. Arrange them onto the baking sheets, and cook in the oven for 8-1o minutes. (8 was enough for my oven, and don’t forget they’ll continue to crisp when cooling.) Transfer to a wire rack.

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