Friday, February 21, 2014

Sós Stangli (Hungarian Cheese Sticks)


In my family, these cheese sticks were as omnipresent as... well, whatever normal kids eat all the time. Apples? Cheerios? My grandmother made endless batches of them, usually presenting us with new ones before we'd finished the old ones. Clients at the salon would rush to book appointments on Thursdays, when she'd bring a batch of these (or occasionally of pastries) in for the table in the waiting area. When my siblings and I left for college, bags of cheese sticks were still delivered regularly, via mail or our mother. Our friends learned to love them as much as we did, and we, accustomed to the bounty, handed out whole bags, confident there would be more to come. But eventually, of course, the flow of cheese sticks stopped. My grandmother simply wasn't up to it any more. But she did give me the recipe. Which I promptly lost for about two years. But that's all fixed now.

Sós Stangli (Hungarian Cheese Sticks)

2 sticks margarine
3 cups flour
2 cups fine grated cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch each garlic powder and white pepper
8 oz sour cream
caraway seeds
baking spray
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 340ºF. Work the margarine, flour, and first cup of cheese together with the baking powder, garlic, and pepper.* Add the sour cream and mix through, kneading the dough until it is smooth and shiny.** Make two balls, roll each out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured board, and slice into sticks (a pizza cutter works pretty well). Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the second cup of cheese and the caraway seeds (very much to taste--my sister hates them, my brother and I would practically trade the cheese for them).

Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray and wipe with a paper towel to spread evenly. Move the cheese sticks to the sprayed sheets. They don't expand, so you can put them fairly close together. Bake for 35-50 minutes, reducing the heat to 325ºF after ten minutes. (If you're baking one sheet at a time, just let the other one sit on the counter until you have oven space. They won't spoil.)

One batch makes about five dozen sticks, depending on how you slice the dough. The slow baking makes them pretty dry, so they'll last for ages in a ziploc bag (our record is at least six months). You can freeze them and then re-toast them, too.

* I did this with my hands, but some sort of stand mixer attachment would probably serve just as well. The point is to mix the dry ingredients into the fats, so it doesn't have to be perfect. Just enough that when you grab a handful, it stays together.

** Again, started with a spatula, ended up using my hands. Because mucking about in dough is fun.

Pre-baking.