Makes 6 to 7 dozen, depending on shape
Cheese straws and cheese wafers are always crowd pleasers. They’re easy to prepare (basically, it’s flaky pastry dough with grated cheese mixed in), and variations are endless. My trick is leaving the butter in rather large chunks, and I add the cheese right from the beginning. You can even make the dough the day before you bake it, though it works fine with an hour’s rest. And yes, you can freeze it for future use.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ teaspoon kosher salt
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½ pound cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut in ¼-inch pieces
4 ounces coarsely grated cheese (cheddar, Gouda, Gruyère or Parmesan), plus more for sprinkling
¼ cup cold milk
2 egg yolks mixed with 2 tablespoons cream for egg wash, or 1 whole egg beaten
Flaky salt, for sprinkling
Cumin seeds, black pepper, rosemary or smoked paprika, for sprinkling (optional)
1. Put flour and salt in mixing bowl. With fingers, work half the butter into the flour until it resembles damp, crumbly sand. Add the remaining cold butter chunks and the cheese and stir with a fork to distribute. Stir in milk and quickly gather dough into a ball with floured hands. (There should be visible butter chunks in the dough.) Squash dough into a rough rectangle about 1 inch thick.
2. Dust dough with flour and roll to a long rectangle about 8 by 14 inches and about ½-inch thick, with the longer side facing you. Fold dough into thirds: first fold in right side, then left side on top of it, making a nearly square package three layers high. Dust again with flour and roll out to make same size rectangle, then fold it again. Dust and repeat once more. Wrap well in plastic film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to a day in advance.
3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut dough in half. Refrigerate half the dough and roll the other piece out to a thickness of about 1
8 inch. (Do not roll too thin or pastry will not puff.) To make wafers, cut dough into 2-inch rounds with a sharp cookie cutter (or cut into diamonds with a knife). To make straws, cut dough in strips ½-inch by 5 inches. Twist strips two or three times and press down ends to prevent unfurling.
4. Place wafers or straws on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Paint lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with flaky salt. Add sprinklings of cumin seed, black pepper, rosemary or smoked paprika if desired, and a little more grated cheese. Bake for eight or nine minutes, until well browned and crisp. Let cool before serving. Repeat process with remaining half of dough.
To make heart-shaped palmiers, cut dough in half as above. Working with one dough half (and refrigerating the other), roll dough to a rectangle about 12 by 8 inches and 1/8 -inch thick, with the longer side facing you. Paint entire sheet of dough with egg wash and sprinkle with cheese. Tightly roll each of the long edges toward the center so you have a long, somewhat narrow log consisting of two connected side-by-side cylinders. Cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices. Pinch the round side of each slice to form a heart shape. Flatten each heart-shaped slice with rolling pin and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Dab each heart with egg wash and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake for nine to 10 minutes, until well browned.
— David Tanis, The New York Times