Gluten a Go Go is this month's host for the "Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free" cooking challenge. April's theme called for portable, finger foods. We are hosting a book signing on May 3 with author Sheridan Hay at our bookstore and I plan on serving gluten-free cocktail snacks, so this was a timely cooking challenge.
I mulled over a few ideas, like stuffing steamed baby potatoes with roasted red pepper-infused potato salad or some variation of my grandma's awesome stuffed celery, but then I remembered a dog-eared page in a new arrival to my cookbook shelf "Meet Me at the Loveless": A Southern Cafe's Cookbook, by Donna McCabe and Mamie Strowd (Franklin, TN: Cool Springs Press, 1998) with an appealing Cheese Balls appetizer. This Nashville cafe and temple to down home Southern cuisine is not known for its heart-healthy menu so much as its decadent deliciousness, so I wanted tone down the cholesterol and of course, make this recipe gluten-free.
The first incarnation of this recipe was tasty but not round.
I used tapioca flour to replace the wheat flour in the original recipe and these babies flattened down to cookie height and had a texture like cheesy gummy bears. Not that this first batch had a long life span; they were wolfed down within a day by the family horde. Clearly, the tapioca flour had to be cut down and improved upon.
My second batch was a marked improvement and the recipe that I am pleased to share below. I cut the tapioca flour in half and added brown rice flour in its stead. Perfect! It added a crisper texture and certainly the Cheese Balls, while still not round, were a better texture. The trick is to keep them small (3/4 inch diameter) so they don't spread out too much during baking and resemble a cookie more than a canape.
SOUTHERN STYLE CHEESE CRISPS
3/4 cup softened butter
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup brown rice flour
2 cups puffed rice
2 Tbsp. snipped chives
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 Tbsp. gluten-free Worcestershire
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend butter and cheese together. Stir in tapioca and brown rice flours. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Shape into small balls (3/4 inch diameter) and arrange on non-stick baking sheet. Bake in oven 12-15 minutes or until brown on bottoms. Cool on wire racks and hide from ravaging hordes.
Makes 60-70 cheese crisps.