Blue Cheese & Walnut “Biscuits”

“Biscuit” is one of those words that has a variety of meanings depending on where and by whom it’s being used.  In England the term “Biscuit” is the same as what Americans would call a “cookie”.  My friend Gary is originally from Scotland and when he first visited me in Orlando he was quite perplexed (and perhaps even a bit disturbed) the first time we drove by “Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits”.  I’ll never forget him asking me if we really eat cookies with our chicken???!!

Even here in the south where biscuits reign supreme and could be expected at any meal of the day, you have varying meanings.  There are baking powder biscuits – the ones normally slathered with butter and jam or smothered with gravy.  Then there are “biscuits” that are more like crackers…going back to the English usage of the term.  Cheese biscuits are a variation on the quintessential southern party hors d’oeuvres known as “Cheese Straws”.  Cheese straws are essentially a savory shortbread dough made with butter and cheese.  It is then rolled out, cut into strips and twisted into long straw-like shapes before baking or piped out of a pastry bag or cookie press into a long strips.  Perfect fare for cocktail parties and hors d’oeuvres if it’s the 1950’s and you have a housekeeper or cook to do them for you!

Instead, I prefer to treat them like shortbread cookies.   Shortbread cookies are one of my favorites to make because they are delicious as they are, can be made into a myriad of variations, and don’t require a lot of work.  Both sweet shortbread cookies and savory shortbread crackers can be kept on hand in the freezer at all times.  Just thaw, slice and bake!

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Blue Cheese & Walnut Biscuits that have been rolled and chilled.

Ready to slice, bake, and serve!

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Sliced and ready to bake!

 

We had a group coming into the hotel that wanted to have a bag of homemade cheesestraws placed in each guest’s room upon arrival, along with the recipe for preparing them.  Somehow the responsibility of that task fell into my hands.  Anyone can go into just about any store that sells specialty food items from the south and pick up a package of pre-made cheddar cheese straws (and I’d be lying if I said the thought of buying a WHOLE BUNCH of those packages and repackaging them to look more “artisanal” hadn’t passed through my mind at least once!).  If I was going to make them I wanted to put my own spin on them….do something a little different and unique.

The answer?  Blue Cheese & Walnut Biscuits flavored with Thyme!  The next time you need a host/hostess gift give a bag of these with a couple of different cheeses and a bottle of wine….Instant “Party in a Bag”!

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Blue Cheese & Walnut “Biscuits”
These are “biscuits” in the English sense of crackers or cookies. Cheese straws and biscuits are popular party fare in the South. Traditionally made with sharp cheddar cheese, these provide an alternative flavor from the pungent salty blue cheese combined with the classic pairing of walnuts. These can be made up into logs and kept tightly wrapped in the freezer to have on hand when a quick accompaniment to a cheese tray or glass of wine is needed.

Yield: 3 1/2 dozen

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup finely ground toasted walnuts, divided use
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons), room temperature
2 cups crumbled blue cheese, room temperature

Place the flour, ½ cup of ground walnuts, and remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel chopping blade. Pulse food processor until mixture forms a crumbly texture and then process until it comes together into a dough.

Scraped dough onto parchment paper and shape into logs that are about 1 ½-2 inches in diameter. Roll to smooth the sides and then roll and coat exterior of dough logs with remaining ground walnuts. Roll up in plastic wrap, parchment paper or waxed paper. Chill for about 30-45 minutes or until firm enough to slice without the dough sticking to the knife blade.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice cross-wise into ¼-inch thick slices and place on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake the biscuits in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until lightly golden on the bottom. Cool and store in an airtight container. Stored airtight in a cool, dry location they will remain fresh for 3-4 weeks.

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