Alicia Ross
Universal Uclick

Cheese straws, cheese crackers, cheese wafers, cheese crisps — whatever you call them, they have been a part of my culinary history for as long as I can remember.

Surprisingly, I have run into quite a few folks who have never tasted cheese straws. Maybe they are new to you as well. They are as simple as a few ingredients, but there is an art to making them that has eluded many a baker, including myself. I’ve tried at least a hundred techniques, recipes, styles, shapes and sizes over the years, but I could never duplicate that cheesy, crisp cracker I remember from childhood.

I had all but given up when my friend brought her cheese crisps to a party. Oh my goodness! Finally, that old-fashioned flair I had missed. The light, perfectly balanced cheese, butter and flour combination reminded me of my great-aunts and grandmother. Could I make these?

My friend jotted down the recipe for those of us who wanted it, but I didn’t try making the crisps for at least six months. It’s amazing what past kitchen failures will do to your confidence.

But finding myself with the ingredients on hand, I couldn’t resist.

I am here to tell you they are the easiest, most flexible cheese crisps I have ever made — no strange kneading technique, no special equipment, easy-to-keep-on-hand ingredients — all in under 30 minutes.

You are sure to adore these crisps, just as I do.

Chica’s Cheese Crisps

1 stick butter, at room temperature

1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

1 cup all-purpose flour

? tsp. cayenne pepper

˝ tsp. salt

1 cup Rice Krispies cereal

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, cheese, flour, cayenne and salt until it forms a ball stuck lightly together. (You may use your hands or a wooden spoon. There should be no individual ingredients at the bottom of the bowl.)

Gently fold the cereal into the dough. Pinch off nickel-size balls and roll tightly between your hands. Place them about an inch apart on an ungreased cookie or baking sheet. When all the balls are rolled, flatten each one with the tines of a fork. Bake 15 minutes.

Cool crisps 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pan and serve. Leftovers may be stored in a tin up to 1 week.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Each crisp has about 41 calories, 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber and 65 milligrams sodium.

Alicia Ross is the co-author of three cookbooks. Contact her c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, email tellus@kitchenscoop.com, or visit http://kitchenscoop.com.