Say Cheese!

Grrrr Gnash – that feeling you get when you’ve been having this brilliant, epiphanic, life-changing idea burning away on the backburner of your medulla oblongata, and you’ve kinda sorta been tinkering around with it, and it’s like that hide and seek game where you’re going warmer… warmer…. warmer………….. And then BAM! Someone else pips you to the post and does something to make it an actual Thing and not just a random brain-fart??

Dang frikkin nabbit.

Happens to me all the time. It’s like I’ve missed my true calling as Chief Genius of Awesome Inventions by a few millimeters (Caribou – do you remember that t-shirt you used to have that read “yes, you may refer me to as super-genius? That was an awesome t-shirt, is all). So my most recent dashed hope is all about cheese. I love cheese. I love cheese in all it’s different formats, but one of the things that really makes me happy is crispy frazzled cheese – you know, when you’ve overstuffed a cheese sarmie (it is the only way to make a cheese sarmie) and some spills out when you grill it, and it turns into a little crispy, crunchy nugget of intensified cheesy, heavenly hallelujahs? It makes my knees go weak. If I had to pick between crispy cheese nibblets and, say, Jon Bon Jovi, I’d be all like Jon Bon Who?

{suddenly, Abe Lincoln takes on a whole new appeal...}

{suddenly, Abe Lincoln takes on a whole new appeal…}

I’m the person who likes a good cheeseburger – but hold the burger, the bun, the pickles and the sauce.

And so for months I’ve been experimenting, trying to make a paleo version of my other big weakness (potato chips) (clearly, I was destined to be an obese couch potato and not Jon Bon Jovi’s significant other). And I was this close *holds forefinger and thumb one quarter of a micrometer apart* when I saw this article.

Well done, Ms. Kerschner, well done *slow clap*. I doff my cheese hat to you.

I applaud the company for taking what they could have sneered at as a whackadoodle idea, and trying it out anyway. Awesome!! So I don’t know quite how this product is made, but here are some of my own versions of frazzled cheesy crisps which will have to suffice until FROLLIcKS All Cheese Crisps takes the world by storm and becomes available at the corner shop down the road. Next to the liquor store with the dodgy uncle behind the counter.

{i imagine that this is what the corridors of heaven look like}

{i imagine that this is what the corridors of heaven look like}

They’re like those parmesan crisp things that everybody and their aunt likes to pop next to a bowl of soup. One. Just one. What is the point of one chip? (Unless it is a Dorito, then it has three points – sorry, couldn’t help myself).

All you need is a semi-hard to hard cheese with a mild flavour – I find that a really loud flavour, like an aged cheddar, results in quite a bitter chip. Emmenthaler and Edam work phenomenally, as do a nice subtle young cheddar. Some will go flat and crisp to the point of shattering, and some (Babybel, Imma pointing at you right now) will puff up and make cheese cookies – technically this is a fail since I was aiming for crisps, but actually it was one of those happy accidents cos ain’t nothin’ wrong with cheese cookies.

{babybel before}

{babybel before}

{babybel after}

{babybel after}

Pre-heat your oven to screaming hot and line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicon mat.

Then, prep the cheese – either slice it thinly (for rectangular or square shapes) or grate it and pile it up in little heaps (for round shapes) leaving plenty of space for the splodges to spread out when they start to frazzle. Although I would normally NEVER buy sliced cheese (portion-control for cheese is a ridiculous concept) it does make prep much easier. These are redonkulously expensive snacks, by the way. You can tell that something is suitable for a paleo diet when you have to take out a loan to cook a meal.

I’ve been experimenting; mixing a bit of finely chopped sautéed onion with grated cheddar works gorgeously. I want to try them with chopped nuts as well sometime (before Ms. FROLLIcKS tries it).

Pop your prepared cheese into the hot oven – now keep a close eye on them, some cheeses will be ready in no time. You will know it’s done when the cheese has frazzled (it’s got little holes all over the surface and is sizzling) right to the centre. You also want to see a bit of golden-browning happening along the edges. If you want the top to be as brown as it’s bottom (ooh!) you might want to give it a blast with the grill element.

{emmenthaler before}

{emmenthaler before}

{emmenthaler during}

{emmenthaler during}

{emmenthaler after}

{emmenthaler after}

Remove from the oven and wait a few moments for it to cool a bit – don’t be alarmed at the pools of cheese oil that may pool around the crisps, it’s bizarre but as the crisps cool down they seem to re-absorb the fat. I guess that is pretty alarming since you will end up eating it and it will probably line your arteries but it’s cheese so in my books it’s worth it. That’s where all the flavour is, as with all food that is bad for you.

{emmenthaler forever after tralalaa}

{emmenthaler forever after tralalaa}

Season the crisps while they are hot – the seasoning sticks better that way. Experiment! As soon as they’ve firmed up a bit, remove them from the tray and let them get completely cool and crisp before serving. They go amazingly with any kind of dip – cheddar and wholegrain mustard, Emmenthaler and cream cheese (I can feel my arteries cringe as I type that), Babybel and something sweet and spicy… the possibilities are endless.

Here is some cheese porn for your viewing pleasure – I kept the best for last:

if piles were this good i'd totally want them

sizzzzzle

frazzled

ooooh better than jon bon jovi

Now, find a quiet corner. Remember how I said that these are quite expensive? Well, what I meant was that you should cut costs by only making them for yourself and no-one else. Anyway, it’s paleo so I don’t know, it’ll make you faster and more feral or something.

PS: Think you’re a cheese person? Check out THESE Cheese People.

PPS: If Jon Bon Jovi allowed me to do this to him… I totally would.

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Son of a Stitch

Yeah. I managed to miss the boat for posting something in time for Mothers’ Day AGAIN this year, dang nabbit.

Anyway, the edible giftlet that I prepared isn’t really Mothers’ Day-specific. It would totally work for … Spinster Day? Old People Day? Stitch ‘n’ Bitch/Sewing Circle gifts? Because… these cookies are not just any ol’ cookies, these are appliqué cookies.

failure to prepare...

If you’re scratching your head at the word “appliqué” you are most likely a guy, or under the age of 60. It’s a beautiful stitchcraft, like embroidery but with more layers. I’ve seen it emulated on cookies and even wedding cakes; I’d like to say I know about appliqué because I’m totally into craftsy stuff (big shout out to Pinterest!!), but let’s face it: Deep down, I possess the soul of a cranky 70 year old who snorts at all things newfangled and thinks ADSL is a disorder in children who eat too many artificial colourants.

and you can't even eat the end result

 

I first saw the technique described in the Ideas magazine, but I’ve changed it a little to suit me; I did stick to their design of simple florals and polka dots, though.

The easy part is the cookies – all you need is a nice smooth surface ready for you to unleash your inner artist and/or needlework-prone old lady. Buy or bake, doesn’t really matter so long as they taste good. Life is too short to endure those vegetable-fatty “variety pack” cookies that leave a waxy coating on your palate.

Next, whip up a batch of royal icing.

one wishes to be eaten

For years, I was slightly terrified of royal icing. So intimidatingly pristinely white, plus it has a title (Well. It’s royal). So when I finally gave it a go I was kinda embarrassed that it took me so long – super-easy! One hand behind my back! Blindfolded!! You get my drift.

My version makes enough icing to pipe, oh I don’t know, about 3 dozen cookies depending on their size and how elaborate your design is. Beat one egg white until it’s frothy, with lots of big bubbles (we’re not going for any form of “peak”). Then add icing sugar, bit by bit while beating, til it’s white and glossy and thick but still pourable. The quantity of icing sugar is also difficult to pin down because every egg is different, I’d guess 250g-ish. I added a tiny drop of pink food colouring and vanilla.

Be sure to cover the icing up tight with a bit of cling over the surface – or it will solidify to the same consistency of wall plaster. Anyone remember the Iced Zoo Biscuits of the 1980’s? Yep, the ones that used to crack the enamel off your teeth – that was proper old-school royal icing. (Nowadays they aren’t nearly as scary, much gentler on the teeth. Meringue-like even).

Spoon some into a piping bag or syringe with a very fine nozzle and keep a toothpick handy.

a stitch in time

Pipe floral patterns onto the cookies – one design element at a time. As soon as you’ve piped it, drag a toothpick in short strokes through each piped line towards the centre of the flower shape to form the appliqué “stitches”. It may help to practice on a plate at first. That, or keep several spare cookies handy in case there are any duds. In my kitchen, there are always duds and that’s why I have to go to gym eight days a week.

signed sealded and almost delivered

Let the cookies hang out in the open for a bit until the icing is dry and solid to the touch, then arrange them nestled in tissue paper in a pretty box and surprise everyone with your awesome stitchcraft skillz:

word indeed