Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cheese Bites - Recipe

I had to bring finger food for the potluck at work for Halloween, and found the basic recipe for these little cheese bites after a quick Google search for "easy finger food" (because we already had volunteers for about 15 desserts).  They went over phenomenally well, though I didn't find them all that spectacular.  The recipe is basic enough that the possibilities are just about endless, though.

(Next time, I'm going to use Parmesan and Romano cheeses, a pinch of nutmeg, parcooked and thinly sliced asparagus, and maybe a thin piece of pancetta on top and make them snooty-patooty Bechamel bites. Or make the dough with the cheese, roll it out and bake it, and use a scalloped biscuit cutter to top it with the above garnishes. Hm....)

Each batch makes a little more than a cookie sheet's worth of snack-sized nibbles (30-35), so I had a few batches to tweak as I went, and finally came up with this:

Your basic dough:
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup flour (don't bother leveling off - I wound up adding a bit more flour here and there as needed)
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp baking powder

Your cheese:
1 3/4 ~ 2 cups shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)

Your mix-ins of choice:
2 green onions, finely minced (the white and light green and some of the darker green)
1/3-ish cup bacon bits (I had a sack of Hormel that I ran under my knife a few times to break down neatly, but as usual, didn't bother measuring this)
1 tsp garlic powder OR about one clove of fresh garlic (minced/mashed)
1 tsp smoked paprika (the original recipe also listed 1 tsp cayenne, which I forgot to include, but I suspect it would have made them marginally more interesting).

Preheat your oven to 400* F, rack in the middle (or mostly centered if you're doing multiple cookie sheets). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or foil, but don't give yourself more cleanup by leaving it unlined!)
Combine the butter, flour, baking powder, spices in a mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in the onions, bacon bits, and cheese, again working thoroughly until you have a relatively consistent dough (given that the shredded cheese I used was not the fancy/fine shred, it was lumpy but relatively evenly distributed after a few minutes of thorough abuse from my spatula).

Use a tablespoon or melon-baller (again, if you really strive for difficult cleanup and being exact) and scoop the dough, rolling each scoop into a 1"-ish rounded ball and setting on the cookie sheet. You will have Butter Hands, so don't go and touch your face or leave fingerprints everywhere!

Pop 'em in the oven for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't burn or stay raw or melt everywhere.

They're done when they're a lovely dark orange/golden brown color (if you used cheddar).  Let them cool. They make lovely, bite-sized biscuit-like nibbles.  Garnish with more paprika if you're feeling fancy.  (Mine went to work dumped haphazardly in a throwaway aluminum pan. It was midnight - I wasn't about to bother with presentation at that point!)

These are notably NOT healthy, and to be honest, the smell of that much butter coming from the microwave was rather nauseating*. I don't think I'll ever be the next Paula Deen. 

*I also cannot stand theater popcorn smell or undercooked microwave popcorn smell, either. There's just something about that much dairy fat in one place that makes my stomach rebel. I held my breath while mixing this all together.

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