Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spiced Sweet Potato Oven Fries

I've never been into self-inflicted New Year's deprivation (or really deprivation of any kind). But after all the decadence of the holidays, simple vegetable dishes like this one have felt like a soothing relief. (What do you mean the holidays aren't over yet?!) Steamed broccoli dipped in tamari-mayonnaise, leafy green salads brimming with beets and radishes, potato, leek and celery soup sopped up with a bit of crusty sourdough: easy to throw together, nourishing, and savory have been the magic combo in the Bojon Gourmet kitchen for the past week. (Never you mind those cakes, cookies and crack sticks..)

These savory-sweet fries dipped in a dollop of sour cream are all that and more. I've already made these twice in the past week, and just bought more sweet potatoes for a third batch today. I clipped the basic recipe from a stack of old Martha Stewart magazines from a friend several years ago, and have made these oven fries many times over the years, tweaking the seasonings to suit my whims, nixing the walnut-yogurt dipping sauce for a simpler and more satisfying dollop of sour cream.

This is thus far my favorite version, encrusted in plenty of toasty, ground cumin seeds, a bit of smoked paprika for umami, and a pinch of dried, ground chipotle for a kick. Olive oil adds depth of flavor, and a finish of flaky salt gives the fries extra bursts of crunch.

When I'm not pureeing them into pies, cakes or cinnamon buns, I like to accentuate the savory side of sweet potatoes, but you could use cinnamon and ginger in place of the cumin if you prefer, as per the original recipe. Curry powder would be a tasty twist, too.

Pull them from the oven, and watch as they disappear from the tray, crusty and golden, completely addictive, a lighter brand of crack stick. The two of us may or may not have polished the first 2 1/2 pounds off in less than 24 hours.

These oven fries make a tasty app, though if you dig in before a meal, you may wind up with a sated you, an empty sheet pan, and a neglected rest-of-dinner. You have been warned. They'd also work to the side of something more substantial (hello, blue cheese burger!). Though they won't get as crisp as regular fries or oven roasted potatoes, they do make a simple and nourishing snack that feels in no way depriving.

Veg out:
Crispy Kale Chips
Oven Roasted Potatoes and Parsnips
Potato, Spring Onion and Turnip Potage

One year ago:
Sourdough Flaxseed Waffles

Spiced Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 4 - 6 servings as a side dish, or 2 main-course-sized servings for sweet potato hogs

I found dried, ground chipotle in the bulk section of our local co-op, but lacking that, you can substitute 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne or other spicy chile powder.

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 medium)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera)
1/2 teaspoon dried, ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
flaky salt, such as Malden, for finishing
Mexican crema, sour cream or crème fraîche, for serving

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 425º. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to heat while you prepare the potatoes.

Leave the peels on the sweet potatoes and slice them in half lengthwise, then slice each half lengthwise into 3 or 4 pieces. (If your sweet potatoes are extra long or misshapen, you may want to slice them in half crosswise, as well.) Place them in a very large bowl, and drizzle the olive oil over them.

In a small skillet, toast the cumin seeds over medium-low heat, shaking frequently (the pan, that is), until they smell fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Grind the cumin fairly finely in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Sprinkle the ground cumin, paprika, chipotle and sea salt over the sweet potatoes, and toss them with your hands to coat evenly. Carefully spread them on the preheated pan in a single layer with a cut side down (if there are some that overlap, that's ok; they'll decrease in size as they bake) and drizzle any extra spiced oil left in the bowl over them. Roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the undersides are deeply golden. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the spears over, and continue roasting until the second side browns and the potatoes are soft, about 20 more minutes. Sprinkle with a few pinches of flaky salt.

Serve the sweet potatoes hot from the oven with a dollop of crema, sour cream or crème fraîche, if desired. Extra taters, should you be so lucky, can be stored in the fridge and reheated in the oven or toaster oven.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cardamom Snickerdoodles

Though it may sound like a new breed of poodle-hybrid, a snickerdoodle is actually a vanilla-flavored drop cookie that gets rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking. Unlike many lucky American children, I did not grow up baking snickerdoodles. I'm sure I'd eaten one or two in my life, but the first time I recall baking them myself was in pastry school.

Now I know you're thinking, 'Snickerdoodles? In pastry school? Shouldn't you have been learning to make REAL pastries? Huh, that explains a lot...' but the snickerdoodles were merely a first-day-of-school ice-breaking exercise, a chance to meet and greet and learn the ins and outs of the school kitchen. We were to buddy up with a partner and bake a batch of cookies.

Up until that moment, I had never realized what a solitary activity baking is for me. Not counting Jay standing at the sink, furiously trying to keep up with the barrage of dishes, I've never really baked with anyone else before. Afraid of seeming bossy, my baking buddy and I lapsed into formal over-politeness:

'Would you care to crack the eggs into the bowl?'
'Please, be my guest.'
'No, no, you. I insist.'
'I couldn't.'
'It would mean the world to me. Please, good sir, I prithee.'
'I wouldn't dream of denying you the pleasure of the egg cracking, milady.'
'I will heretofor do so, but only if you would do me the honor of sifting the flour.'

As there were a finite number of stand mixers, I volunteered to mix our batch of cookies by hand. Sadly, though the butter had been sitting out for half an hour or so, the kitchen was freezing on that San Francisco October night, and the butter remained rock hard. I did my best, breaking a sweat as my baking buddy looked on with polite disinterest. We eventually popped the cookies in the oven, which ran cold, though we had no thermometers at the time to confirm this and make adjustments. (We did get thermometers later on and I was mollified).

At the end of class, we all displayed our cookies on the large center island and gathered around so that our teacher, Claire, could belittle our pathetic attempts at baking, as she would do every night for the next 6 months. Though I grew to love her no-nonsense frankness, that night, when she blamed our flat cookies on my lack of creaming vigor, I wanted to punch her. (I'm far too polite to have actually done so, however.)

Perhaps the trauma of that experience put me off snickerdoodles, or maybe I was just waiting for an exciting enough recipe to come along. Because when I saw the cardamom-cinnamon snickerdoodles in Mani Niall's Sweet!, I wished to make them immediately. The cardamom lends a grown-up twist to this typically kid-friendly cookie, but there is still enough sugary-vanilla-ness to make these palatable to young'uns. Mani says, 'The best snickerdoodles are crisp around the edges with a chewy center,' and these cookies flawlessly hit the mark.

At the last minute, I decided to use only cardamom in the spiced sugar, as I wanted to experience its flavor unadulterated. We in the U.S. are most familiar with cardamom as the dominant flavor in masala chai, where it is mixed with other spices such as cinnamon and ginger. I like to use it as a flavoring in its own right when possible. If you prefer, use cinnamon in place of half of the cardamom, or use all cinnamon for a traditional snickerdoodle.

Due to their whimsical name, ease of making, and the fun of rolling the unbaked dough balls in spiced sugar, these cookies make a fun project for baking with kids. And with kids, you don't have to worry about being overly polite, either.

Cardamom crush:
Cardamom Ice Cream, with Almond-Plum Tart
Plum Cardamom Crumble Squares
Cardamom Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

One year ago:
Candy Cap Crème Caramels

Cardamom Snickerdoodles

Adapted from Sweet! by Mani Niall

Makes a scant 2 dozen 3" cookies

As the flavor of cardamom dissipates quickly, grind your own from whole, black seeds (found within the green pods) for the best flavor. Crush open the pods, remove the seeds, and grind them in a spice or coffee grinder. The amount I used here gave the cookies a mild spice; for more spice, use 2 teaspoons of seeds, which when ground will make 1 tablespoon cardamom powder.

The cookies:
1 stick (4 ounces, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but cool
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

The spiced sugar:
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons black cardamom seeds (from about 15 green pods), ground finely in a coffee or spice grinder to make a generous 2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375º. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or in a bowl with a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla, scraping down the bowl and paddle as necessary.

In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add the dries to the butter mixture with the mixer on low, mixing until just combined. Give the batter a final turn by hand to make sure it is homogeneous.

Combine the sugar and the ground cardamom in a smallish bowl. Drop 1" balls of dough (I like to use the #40 purple-handled spring-loaded ice cream scoop) into the sugar three or four at a time and roll to coat. Place the balls on the parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 - 3" apart (they will spread a lot). Sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon of spiced sugar on top of the balls.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, rotating front to back and top to bottom halfway through, until the edges are just turning golden, but the centers are still soft. Cool the cookies for a few minutes on the baking sheets, then remove them to a cooling rack.

The cookies are at their peak a few hours after baking, when the cardamom flavor comes out, and the cookies are still soft. They will keep for a day or two in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cranberry-Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread

Being a Jew (even a bad one) in December in the U.S. can prove trying. I don't mind the trees, wreaths and boughs (they smell great!), the perpetual Christmas music playing everywhere (well, so long as it's Bing or Ella), or the plethora of baking magazines stocking the racks at every grocery store in town (bring them on!). What bothers me is the assumption that everybody celebrates Christmas.

During Chanukah this year, the nice Peruvian delivery man from one of our vendors at work wished me a Feliz Navidad. I smiled and wished him a Happy Chanukah back.

'Happy Chanukah.'
'No comprendo.'
'Chanukah.' I tried pronouncing it with a Latin American accent. 'HA-noo-kah.'
'Oh, you mean año nuevo.'
'No I don't mean año nuevo, I mean Chanukah. The Jewish... version of Christmas.'
Polite smile.
'You know, Jewish people? Jews?'

Despite being Jew Crew, I'm down with Christmas just like I'm down with Jesus: he seems like he was a cool guy, and if Christmas tricks people into baking a lot and celebrating trees, then I can get behind it. That lots of yummy foods (and drinkles) are associated with the birth of Jesus doesn't make me want to eat (or drink) them any less. Any Scroogy tendencies I may have are in no way aimed at the culinary side of Christmas. Cookies, spice cakes, peppermint bark - the more the merrier. Ho, ho hos.

I'm unclear as to whether my recent hankering for gingerbread has anything to do with the impending holiday, or if it's just the cold making me want to eat everything in sight, bear-like, in preparation for a long winter. Either way, warming spices and pears seem to fit the bill perfectly this time of year.

Inspired by a recipe in Mani Niall's book Sweet!, I decided to add cranberries to the mix, as I didn't get enough of them yet this year, and bake this cranberry pear upside-down gingerbread.

After a bit of analysis paralysis spent researching dozens of recipes, I finally threw caution to the wind and made one up. I melted butter, brown sugar and salt together in a 9" round pan, arranged the cranberries and pears over the top, then whisked up a batter of more melted butter, blackstrap molasses, white sugar, fresh and dried ginger, cinnamon, black pepper (as well as the usual cakey ingredients), and baked it up. I liked the balance of flavors - spicy, sweet, bitter, tart - but the gingerbread part hardly rose at all and had a dense, dry mouthfeel. I swapped out sunflower oil for the butter and upped the leavening for the second trial.

Crossing my fingers, I turned the finished cake out onto a platter. The glowing red cranberries glistened prettily as the toffee-flavored sauce oozed down the sides. I cut a wedge of cake and the pear slices revealed themselves, tucked between the cake and the berries. A dollop of whipped cream tempered the heat of the ginger and mellowed the deep molasses flavor.

Fresh from the oven, the cake is springy and tender; as it sits, it absorbs the juices from the baked fruit, becoming more moist and gooey, similar in texture to a steamed pudding. The tang of the berries plays off the mild pears and the deep, dark, spicy cake. The high ratio of fruit to cake should assuage any guilt you may feel regarding indulgence. Hey, it's the holidays!

Whatever your celebratory persuasion - Christmas, Chanukah or Ursidae - this cake makes a satisfying dessert after any meal, be it a roast ham, a bowl of Chinese take-out, or an unsuspecting salmon.

Happy Holidays!

There's no place like pome:
Baked Pancake with Pear and Cardamom
Über Apple Upside-Down Cake
Apple Custard Tart
One year ago:

Cranberry Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread

Be sure to use ripe pears for this cake. They should smell fragrant and have a hint of give when pressed.

The topping:
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, in 6 pieces
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (about 2 cups) whole fresh or frozen cranberries
2 large, ripe, buttery pears (such at Bartletts), peeled, cut off the core, sliced lengthwise 1/4" or thinner

The cake:
1/4 cup vegetable oil (such as sunflower)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) peeled and finely grated fresh ginger (I like to use a microplane)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsulphured, blackstrap or dark molasses
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
lightly sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche, for serving

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º.

Grease the sides of a 9" round cake pan with a bit of the butter, then place the rest of the butter pieces in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar and the salt evenly over the butter, and place in the oven until melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Dump in the cranberries (they should almost completely cover the bottom), then carefully the pears over the cranberries. Set aside while you make the batter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, grated ginger, sugar, molasses and egg to combine. Whisk in the milk. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, powdered ginger, cinnamon and pepper. Whisk the dries into the wets until smooth. The batter will be runny. Pour the batter over the pears.

Bake the cake until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 - 35 minutes, rotating halfway through. Run a thin knife or small, offset spatula around the perimeter of the cake to loosen it. Invert a large plate over the cake. Wearing oven mitts, grasp both the plate and the cake pan and flip them over. Carefully lift the pan off. If some cake has stuck to the pan, you can scrape it off and spackle it back on (or just eat it - it IS the best part, and none will be the wiser).

Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche. The cake is best the day it is made, but you can store it in an airtight container at room temp or in the fridge for a day or two.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nibby Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

When the weather turns cold and rainy, I find few activities as satisfying as baking chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Curling up in bed with a cup of tea and a juicy novel can be nice. Watching Fawlty Towers while munching homemade popcorn is grand. A hot bath and the music of the rain's rhythmic drumming has its charms.

But nothing really does it quite like baking the aforementioned cookies. You turn on the oven to preheat, hoist your stand mixer down from where it lives on top of the fridge, get out a couple of baking pans, and set to work.

But what's this? You don't own a stand mixer/are too lazy to haul it down from the top of the fridge? Well, well. Have I got a recipe for you.

Years ago, I got super spoiled by Cook's Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, in which the butter gets melted and effortlessly stirred into the eggs and sugar rather than laboriously creamed. Not only were these the yummiest chocolate chip cookies I'd ever made, they were also the quickest and easiest.

I knew in my heart that there must exist a similarly simple recipe for chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, which happen to be both Jay's fave cookies and THE essential bojon rainy day baking activity. But I never found it and remained too chicken to try melting the butter in a regular creaming-method-style recipe.

I also hadn't found the perfect recipe for this type of cookie yet. Some contained ingredients that I found superfluous, like orange zest or spices. Some spread too much, some not enough. Some were tooth-achingly sweet, or not oaty/chocolaty enough. Some called for stirring melted milk chocolate into the batter, which tasted good, but I don't usually keep milk chocolate in the house, and schlepping out in the rain to buy milk chocolate is certainly not up there on my list of ideal rainy day activities. Not at all, at all.

So one night, Jay and I found ourselves at the home of our friends Rick and Jessa. This may or may not have been the night when they served us brined and roasted wild turkey breast (which Rick had actually shot himself - yes, totes badass). It was by far the best turkey I've ever tasted (so moist! so flavorful!) and the nicest meal anyone's ever cooked for me. After dinner, Jessa oh-so-casually got some cookie dough out of the fridge and baked it off.

And it was then that I tasted the perfect chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.

When I asked (begged! pleaded!) for the recipe, Jessa replied nonchalantly, 'Oh, I just got it off the back of the oats container. But I use whole wheat flour instead of white, and I melt the butter.'


Maldon salt's pyramid-shaped crystals - pretty, and tasty, too

She kindly wrote out the recipe, and I've been in oatmeal chocolate heaven ever since. Jay, too.

I've come to make several minor tweaks to the recipe, like doubling the specified amount of nuts (toasted pecans) and chocolate (70% wafers chopped into chunks). I also add some cacao nibs and flaky salt to the batter, because they pretty much make everything better. And I use whole spelt flour in place of the wheat, and unrefined sugar in place of the brown, because I am a dirty hippy.

Just kidding, it's because I like the rich flavor they both add to the cookies.

Mostly oats and other goodies bound together by a toffee-flavored dough, these cookies stay moist and chewy for up to several days. A few flecks of Maldon salt on top make them extra addictive.

But don't worry too much; they're fairly healthy, as far as cookies go. And not difficult to make. Or eat. Not at all, at all.

Me want cookie:

One year ago:
Horchata Ice Cream

Nibby Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 2 dozen 2 - 3" cookies

Feel free to double the recipe, as this makes a fairly small batch of cookies, as far as batches of cookies go. If you don't want to eat them all at once, scoop the remaining dough into balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge (the dough is hard to scoop when cold). Cookies baked from chilled dough don't spread as much, yielding a thicker cookie. Jay says these are his faves.

4 ounces (1 stick, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
3/4 cup packed unrefined sugar (4 1/4 ounces, preferably Alter Eco brand), or light brown sugar (6 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole spelt flour, or whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose will probably work, too)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, such as Maldon, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted, cooled, and broken into coarse pieces
1/2 cup (3 ounces) dark chocolate wafers, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons cacao nibs

Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg until combined. Whisk in the melted and cooled butter, then stir in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking soda and sea salt. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until almost combined, then stir in the flaky salt, oats, nuts, chocolate chunks and nibs until just combined.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons (or use the purple-handled spring-loaded ice cream scoop) onto the lined baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Flick a few grains of flaky salt on the tops.

Bake the cookies until just set on the edges, and puffed and wet in the centers, 10 - 12 minutes, rotating front to back and top to bottom halfway through. The cookies will look underdone, but will continue to cook as they cool. (If you accidentally over bake, remove the cookies from the pans and onto cooling racks immediately.) Cool the cookies completely on the pans. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a few days.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sage, Thyme and Mimolette Cheese Straws

Growing up in LA, I was bound to meet many interesting people. On a camping trip in my late teens, I chatted with a friend of a friend who described trying crack cocaine for the first (and luckily, last) time. He said the high was so pleasurable and so fleeting, that had he any money at all he would have spent every last cent of it on more crack without giving it a second thought.

While I've never tried the stuff, I do pride myself on not having a particularly addictive personality. Certainly the thought of never eating chocolate again would make me weep with regret, and I did stay up until 4 a.m. every night while reading a certain series of paranormal teen chick lit which shall remain nameless.

But when Jay and I munched our way through seconds, thirds, and eventually... elevenths of these cheesy straws, we dubbed them 'crack sticks,' in reference to their addictive properties.

The straws were destined for a cast party, and shortly after setting them out on the table next to the pretzels, pita and hummus, three separate lithe dancers sauntered up and confided that it was taking all of their willpower not to run away with the rest.

The straws come from Jerry Traunfeld's gorgeous book The Herbal Kitchen, an accessible collection of delectable recipes all containing liberal amounts of fresh herbs. When I saw the photo of the green and gold-flecked sticks nestled next to a Sage Rush cocktail, I knew I would have to make them straight away.

For undisclosed reasons, I have come into a rather large sum of bright orange mimolette cheese cubes. Aged for 18 months, it is similar in texture to a parmesan or aged cheddar but with a milder flavor more closely resembling the mellow nuttiness of a gruyere.

As the recipe originally called for gruyere, I thought it the perfect opportunity to give the cheese straws a try. The dough came together as quickly as pie dough or scones, rested in the fridge for 15 minutes, and was easily rolled out, sliced, and rolled into straws. Twenty minutes later they emerged from the oven in all their cheesy glory, every bit as addictive as one might imagine. Crisp, salty, and savory, they are satisfying to munch on with a glass of beer, Prosecco, or perhaps a gin and tonic.

This recipe seems infinitely adaptable. Try using a different hard cheese for the mimolette, switching up the herbs, and optionally using other flours in place of the rye, such as kamut, cornmeal, or buckwheat. Other combinations I'm plotting are:

  • rosemary asiago
  • parmesan with lemon zest and cracked pepper
  • dry jack and smoked paprika
  • manchego and chile flakes
  • sharp cheddar with poppy seeds
  • gruyere with truffle oil

However you decide to gussy them up, resist the urge to hoard these tasty treats all to yourself. Bring them to a potluck, arrange them in a cup, and watch them disappear. You might consider telling people, 'the first one's free...'

Luckily, unlike the real thing, a 'crack stick' habit won't set you back your life's savings. And the high lasts a bit longer, too.

Say cheese:
Squash and Sage Gougeres
Cheddar Herb Biscuits
Bacon, Smoked Cheddar and Beer Scones

One year ago:
Triple Ginger Molasses Cookies, Three Ways

Herby Cheese Straws

Adapted from The Herbal Kitchen

Makes 4 dozen

Use any hard cheese that you like the taste of in place of the Mimolette, such as gruyere, aged cheddar, asiago, dry jack, or manchego. For some possible variations, see the above post.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rye, spelt, or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt (kosher or sea)
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme leaves
1 stick (4 ounces, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4" dice
3 ounces Mimolette, or other hard cheese (see headnote), shredded on the medium side of a box grater (1 cup)
1/2 cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt and herbs. Add the butter, and rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with some barley-sized butter bits remaining. (Alternately, you can do this in a food processor or stand mixer, but add in the water by hand to avoid over-processing.) Toss in the shredded cheese, then sprinkle in the water bit by bit, tossing with your fingers or a wooden spoon, until the dough begins to clump together and no loose, floury bits remain. (You may not need all the water.) Gather the dough into an oblong, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for 15 minutes. (You can probably chill it for up to a couple of days, if you like, or freeze for up to a couple of months. If you do either, let the dough stand at room temp until soft enough to roll out.)

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 400º. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Lightly dust a work surface with rye flour, and roll out the dough into a rectangle with a long side facing you, about 5 x 24" and 1/4" thick. Using a pizza wheel or chef's knife, cut into 1/2" wide strips. Roll the strips under your fingers into straws, lengthening them to about 10" long, and place on the pan an inch or so apart.

Bake the straws until golden brown, 18 - 22 minutes, rotating front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Let cool completely on the pans (they will crisp up as they cool), then store in an airtight container.

These are awesome on the day they are baked, and will keep, in an airtight container at room temperature, for a day or two. You can re-crisp them in a 300º oven if they soften.