Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Southern Cheese Crisps

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.


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.


Anonymous said...

Are Rice Krispies the same as rice puffs? Thanks.

Rachel said...

Hi Shreela:

Nooooooo! Don't get glutened!

Last time I checked, Rice Krispies are not gluten-free. The puffed rice I'm calling for in this recipe is usually found in my local supermarket in bags in the economy section (store brands of the most popular and plainest kinds of cereal, like corn flakes and bran flakes).

Puffed rice is just rice grains puffed up with air and heat during manufacturing, so no extra flavorings that might contain gluten are involved. See this wikipedia link for a photo and more information.

If you can't find puffed rice, trying breaking up some plain rice cakes as a substitute.

Hope you enjoy this recipe.