Cheese biscuits: crisp cheese layers interspersed with flaky pastry, as easy to make as they are to eat. I lie – they are MUCH easier to eat.
Cheese biscuits or cheese straws, cheese crackers or cheesy bites are the pastry equivalent of crisps: it’s impossible to have just one/a handful.
They are disgustingly nice: greasy and salty, crisp where the cheese leaked out and burnt onto the baking tray in a lace pattern, pleasantly stodgy and equally irresistible warm or cold.
I am only allowed to make them occasionally, for a special treat.
Each of those occasions ends with both of us sneaking surreptitiously to the kitchen aiming for the biscuit jar, for one of us to eventually exclaim: ‘I can’t believe you’ve eaten all the cheese biscuits!!!’
And that’s even before our daughter and her partner catch wind of cheese biscuits being baked in the house.
It was The Weather Man who blazed the trail for these snacks. His version, copied from my dear mother-in-law’s, was just flour, butter and cheese mixed together, shaped into straws and baked. It was basic short pastry flavoured with Cheddar but nevertheless very moreish.
I still have a soft spot for those plain ones, not least because he used to bake them.
Varieties of cheese pastries
The simple one above is the unfussy version: twice as much flour as each of butter and cheese plus an egg or an egg yolk. It is actually also a good recipe for a cheese-enriched shortcrust pastry, for a pie or a tart.
Cutting corners even more severely, you can use shop-bought puff pastry. If you also purchase ready-grated cheese, you’ll be on a straight line, hehe.
But seriously – it’ll be a perfectly decent confection if you shower egg-washed all-butter puff pastry with cheese, cut strips and bake them.
You can also make savoury cheesy palmiers by rolling up tightly cheese-covered pastry, then cutting it into swirly rounds.
I have developed my perfect cheese biscuits using rugelach pastry that is traditionally used to make eponymous cookies. Crescent shaped, wrapped around sweet and cinnamon-spiced filling, those pastries are of Ashkenazy Jewish origin and very popular in Israeli cafes and bakeries.
As the recipe probably goes back to 17th century, some say the rugelach were the predecessors of modern day croissants and viennoiserie.
I can certainly atest that in Poland, where Ashkenazy communities were influential, rogaliki (almost identical pronunciation), crescent shaped pastries and breads have been extremely popular for at least a couple of centuries.
I hope I am not antagonising the diaspora nor the state of Israel by adopting the simple rugelach pastry here for my cheesy, savoury purposes.
How to make the pastry
It is the easiest and the nicest pastry in the world: versatile, melting and flaking like a cross between puff and shortcrust. Three ingredients, flour, butter and cream cheese, and the pastry world is your éclair.
You can use the food processor, a standing mixer or just as easily knead everything quickly to a dough. It can be rolled out straight away.
Cutting out biscuits
After brushing it with egg wash to make the cheese stick, shower the rolled out pastry sheet (it should ideally be a neat rectangle but as you and I both know, it's near impossible to roll pastry out to a neat shape) generously with cheese.
Trim the edges, roll it up into a tight log using more egg wash to seal the seams, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to several days.
When ready to bake, slice the pastry into discs and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet, with plenty of space between them.
They will keep very well in a jar, a tin or a plastic container. But I don’t know why I even bother telling you that: they will disappear as if evaporated.
More cracker recipes
Seeded oatcakes with poppy and sesame seeds; naturally gluten free, wholesome and gut-friendly. Oatmeal, boiling water and a little butter – it takes you back to making mud cakes!
Olive and seaweed crackers recipe. These are very moreish savoury biscuits with Parmesan, olives and capers, seasoned with dried seaweed flakes and black pepper.
Crunchy seed crackers made with a mix of 7 seeds; gluten free and keto-friendly if you skip millet grain. Great as a snack, broken over a salad for a topping or served with a cheese board.
More cheesy bake recipes
A great recipe for cheese and black pepper buttons. These buttons are really cheese crisps, a little like Mini Cheddars but much, much better. Excellent for using odd bits of cheese languishing in the fridge.
Easy cheesy oregano cheese straws from homemade shortcrust pastry; flaky, buttery and melting in the mouth. Everyone’s all-time best ever favourite snack.
Apple and cheese scones made with Cheddar cheese and Bramley cooking apples. A quick, rewarding, minimum effort recipe for savoury cheese scones.