Cayenne Cheeses


You'll find this recipe in:
Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management
by Isabella Beeton
London, England – 1861

The Original Recipe:

1642. INGREDIENTS. - 1/2 lb. of butter, 1/2 lb. of flour, 1/2 lb. of grated cheese, 1/2 teaspoonful of cayenne, 1/3 teaspoonful of salt; water.

Mode. - Rub the butter in the flour; add the grated cheese, cayenne and salt; and mix these ingredients well together. Moisten with sufficient water to make the whole into a paste; roll out, and cut into fingers about 4 inches in length. Bake them in a moderate oven a very light colour, and serve very hot.

Time. - 15 to 20 minutes.    Average cost, 1 s. 4 d.     
Sufficient for 6 or 7 persons.     Seasonable at any time.

My Recipe:

1/2 lb butter
1 1/4 cups flour – 225 g
2 1/4 cups grated cheese – 225 g (I used cheddar)
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Water – I used about 3/4 cup/175mL

Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces (make your life easier & grate the butter on a cheese grater!) and add to the flour. Incorporate the butter and flour using a dough cutter or two knives or rub it into the flour with your hands.

Add in the grated cheese, salt & cayenne pepper and mix together. Add just enough water so it holds together as a dough. Flour your rolling pin & rolling surface, and roll out until it's roughly 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick. Cut out with cookie cutters if you'd like, or if you'd like to stick with Mrs. Beeton's suggestion of fingers, trim the sides of the dough and use a knife to cut the dough into long, thin rectangular shapes.

Place on cookie sheets, and put in the oven. You'll know it's time to flip the Cayenne Cheeses when they're slightly golden on the bottom and will move around on the sheet when pushed. Flip them over, put the tray back in the oven and watch them carefully – they're almost done. Take out of the oven when both sides are a golden brown. You'll end up with about 3 cookie sheets full of Cayenne Cheeses, and at 350F/175C, they should be baked in roughly 30-40 minutes.

Cayenne Cheeses always taste the best when baked over an open hearth, so this would be a fantastic campfire recipe! For this reason, I think it would be tasty to switch out the Cayenne Pepper for Chipotle.

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When I decided to start my own food history blog over 4 years ago, I knew right away that my first blog post would be about Cayenne Cheeses.

Why? Cayenne Cheeses were the first historic food that I fell in love with when I started working as a Historical Interpreter, and I'm not alone. If my coworkers don't have dietary restrictions against dairy and wheat, it's a pretty safe bet that they're also mad about Cayenne Cheeses. My first historic house Curator, who had a strict personal rule to never eat food touched by visitors, would gladly pop Cayenne Cheeses made by snotty 8 year olds into her mouth on the rare occasion when there were leftovers after their school program!

I decided to start my own food history blog over 4 years ago, so what took me so long to write this first blog post? A concussion, then cancer. And then another concussion. Well into my recovery from my first concussion, I thought that if I wasn't able to start a blog at the time, at the very least I could start a food history twitter account, @Cloud9Cookery, which I've been passionate about when I could and ignored when I didn't have the energy.

You can imagine that this first blog post is a rather significant life event for me. It's the fruition of years of fighting to stay alive and to regain being myself again. When I finish writing & arranging this post and finally hit that "Publish" button, a gate will have opened to a future filled with possibilities, joy, wrinkles & grey hairs.

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Read the Cookbook

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management has its own website:

Peruse an original scanned copy of Mrs. Beeton's 1861 book on the Internet Archive: 

Mrs. Beeton's is about 1100 pages long, so if you get yourself a copy of the book, I recommend investing in a hardcover copy for the longevity of your book spine!