Mine are punched up with chipotle chili powder, so they have a spicy, smoky flavor. You can use a variety of spices to enliven these. Mustard powder and/or seeds would be an interesting addtion as would finely minced chives or cumin seeds. They're just fine plain too.
If you put them in a pretty bag, box or jar they make a lovely hostess gift. Package them alongside a bottle of red wine and you have a charming gift.
(adapted from Paula Deen's Zesty Cheese Straws)
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or cayenne, or smoked paprika (depending on how spicy you want these to be - taste the dough to see if you've put enough spice in)
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a smooth dough. (Use a combination of pulsing and steady processing to make sure everything is well combined.)
You can do this without a food processor too - just cream the butter and cheese together with a spatula and then work in the flour and seasonings until you have a dough. In this method, you may have some threads of shredded cheese throughout the dough - that's a fine option as well
You can use a cookie press to form the crackers: Scoop the dough into a cookie press fitted with a ridged plate. Pipe out long strips of dough onto a baking sheet and then cut the strips into squares.
You can use the chill and slice method to form the crackers: Form the dough into a log (give it a square cross-section if you want to keep the Cheez-It metaphor going). Chill until firm and then slice into 1/8" thick pieces. Lay crackers on baking sheet.
Bake at 325 for about 10 minutes, or until gently browned. Your kitchen will be perfumed with the fragrance of toasted Cheddar cheese. The cheese flavor really shines at room temperature though, so hold off devouring them until they cool off.