Cheesey Christmas Snacks

There’s something so more-ish about cheese snacks. No matter how much we think we’ve over-catered in the cheese nibbles department, there’s rarely anything left. By the time the family has ‘helped’ us (by tasting the fresh-baked goodies) and some have been dropped on the dog, it’s usually necessary to make another batch before our first Christmas guests arrive.

The following suggestions for homemade cheese nibbles are ideal for any occasion when you want to offer something more original than bowls of crisps and peanuts. At Christmas and New Year the snacks are often better appreciated than the main meals – let’s make them memorable!

Tasty Handmade Cheese Straws

Maximum effect with minimum fuss: that’s why cheese straws never go out of fashion (unlike the Christmas jumper knitted for you)! These are a big hit with the budding chefs in your family; who may want to make some for one particular Christmas Eve visitor…

Ingredients to make about 50

  • 150g plain flour
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 80g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 or 2tsp English mustard
  • Pinch of salt and cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Either mix the ingredients in a bowl or use a food processor. Sift the flour with salt and pepper, if used, before you add the butter and mix or rub until it resembles breadcrumbs. Next, add the grated cheese and stir well. Combine one beaten egg with the mustard and add this to make soft cheese dough. Turn out the dough-straight onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes.

Roll out the dough so that it’s thin but not stretching or breaking. Cut the dough into oblong strips 18cm long and 6.5cm wide to make individual cheese straws.

Gather up the leftover edging and knead it again then roll out as before. This time, instead of cutting the dough into strips, use a 5cm round pastry cutter to make rings, then use a 4cm round cutter to hollow the rings. When baked, these make attractive parcel holders for the straws. Make some little ‘holly leaf’ decorations with any scraps of dough and a few ‘berries’ that can be coloured red with food colouring to decorate the round holders.

Brush with the remaining beaten egg. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

A tasty alternative: cut the dough into fingers, about 1cm wide and 7.5cm long. Mix together 50g cooked ham and 2tsp creamed horseradish to spread on the cooked cheese fingers. Sprinkle with a little paprika or cayenne pepper.

Blue Cheese Savouries

Ingredients to make about 30 biscuits

  • 125g Roquefort or similar blue cheese
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2tbsp double cream
  • 175g plain flour, sieved
  • 1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Mash the cheese with a fork in a mixing bowl. Gradually beat in the softened butter, cream and egg yolk.

Knead in the sieved flour to combine all the ingredients then form a ball with the dough. Wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and chill until it is firm (30 minutes to an hour should be plenty).

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, to a thickness of about 0.6cm and use a circular pastry cutter to cut the dough into 3.8cm rounds. Brush with the beaten egg yolk. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. The biscuits should spread and puff slightly as they brown.

These scrummy savoury biscuits can be made just as well with cheddar but the blue cheese provides more visual contrast. This dough can also be used for individual tarts and turnovers. Make as above but bake the rounds in tart cases and later fill with treats like cream cheese and figs, brie and cranberry, anchovy fillets and natural yoghurt, or whatever else inspires you!

Take a look at some ideas for cheese snacks and starters.

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