Cheese Hooies

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You'll find this recipe in:
Stillmeadow Cookbook
By: Gladys Taber
Philadelphia, 1965

Original Recipe:


¼ lb butter
¼ lb strong American cheese
1 cup sifted flour
1 tsp salt
A good dash of Cayenne

Grate cheese into butter (I hope with a mouli grater). Cream well together, using a wooden spoon or your own clean hands. Add salt and Cayenne, then work in flour until thoroughly blended.

Knead on a board until smooth, roll into a long, thin roll and put in the the refrigerator to chill thoroughly. When chilled, slice thinly (use a sharp knife) and bake on a cookie sheet in a moderate oven (350°) until the hooies are beginning to brown (about to 10 minutes).

Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Serve with cocktails, highballs, tomato juice, soup or salads.

This was the chief cooking specialty of my Virginia friend, Ida Fitzgerald. When she visited me in the summer, we were not above a few cheese hooies with our breakfast coffee. She always doubled the recipe. They keep indefinitely, but are seldom allowed to.

My Recipe:

I followed Ida Fitzgerald's advice and doubled the recipe

1 cup softened butter – ½ lb – 225 g
2 ⅓ cups finely grated cheddar cheese – 225 g
2 cups all-purpose flour – 340 g
2 tsp salt (this is the amount in the original recipe - you probably want to use less salt)
A few shakes of cayenne pepper
Sugar (optional, I suggest using icing sugar)

Cream the softened butter and finely grated cheese together, add salt and cayenne pepper and gradually mix in the flour.

The mixture will probably be powdery once all the flour has been added, but if you use your hands to mix the dough, you should be able to roughly form it into balls. Knead the dough even more on a board, then use your hands to form it into tubes (mine were 2 – 3 cm or about 1" thick). Put the tubes in a container and put in the refrigerator until cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 F or 175 C. Thinly slice the Hooie tubes with a sharp knife, arrange on a cookie sheet and bake until slightly browned on the bottom. The original recipe suggests that this will take 8 – 10 minutes, but it was 15 minutes until my Hooies were golden.

Sprinkle with sugar if you'd like.

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One year ago today, on March 31st, I hit the "Publish" button for the first time and put out my first Food History blog recipe for the world to see and taste. I selected Cayenne Cheeses, a scrumptious cheese biscuit, from the 1861 Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management because it has been one of my favourite historic recipes since I began working in Historic House Museums. They are really delicious, you should try them!

When I first read the Cheese Hooies recipe in the 1965 Stillmeadow Cookbook by Gladys Taber, I saw the ingredient list (butter, cheese, flour, salt and cayenne pepper) and thought, "These Hooies are basically Cayenne Cheeses". Cheese Hooies haven't kicked Cayenne Cheeses off my favourite recipes list, but making them was interesting look at how a century changes a recipe.

  • So how do the recipes compare? For the 1860s, the Cayenne Cheeses recipe lists quite specific measurements for the ingredients, so it's nice that we don't have to decipher something like "add flour until it is dough". The Cheese Hooies recipe features an ingredient list like we are used to today and the flour is measured out in cups instead of by weight, which would be typical of a century earlier.

  • The biggest alteration made by time is the appliances. We're instructed to bake the Cayenne Cheeses "in a moderate oven", which at that time would have been a wood stove, brick oven, or perhaps on a griddle over an open hearth. The Cheese Hooies recipe lists a specific oven temperature and makes use of a refrigerator.

  • Cheese Hooies are SALTY as is. They're probably on par with the saltiness of a potato chip, which is a bit surprising for a cheese biscuit. If you compared the ingredient amounts with the Cayenne Cheeses recipe, Cheese Hooies have double the flour and 6 times the salt! If you try them out, I'd suggest adding much less salt.

  • Cayenne Cheeses are crispy and flakey, and this is due to the fact that the recipe has less flour and also that it is prepared in a similar fashion as pastry, rubbing cold butter into the flour, then adding the cheese, cayenne, salt and a bit of water. Cheese Hooies are softer and fairly similar to a large goldfish cracker.

  • Gladys Taber lists "Strong American Cheese" in the ingredients for Cheese Hooies, which caused me to do some research and hemming and hawing about what kind of cheese to use. We don't typically call it American Cheese here in Canada, but when I travel to the United States and I'm asked if I want American Cheese, they are talking about processed cheese slices. Since we're instructed to grate this Strong American Cheese, I knew that cheese slices wasn't what I needed to use.

My research suggested that in the 1960s, Taber was probably referring to a processed cheese. Typically, American Cheese is a mixture of Cheddar and Colby, which makes up less than half of the "cheese product". The other ingredients allow it to melt and stay melted without becoming greasy. I didn't do an exhaustive search in cheese shops, but I couldn't find a block of processed American Cheese, except for Velveeta that you can find in any grocery store.

There was no way that I would be able to grate Velveeta with the grating implements in my kitchen, though. Taber strongly suggests using a mouli grater in her recipe, which is a metal rotary grater made in France at the time. They are an apparently incredible kitchen gadget that you just can't find new these days, so I'll be on the lookout for one when I'm in antique markets! From what I read, they can grate just about anything, so maybe you can grate Velveeta with a mouli grater. I settled on using Cheddar Cheese.

  • And finally, Gladys Taber writes that we can optionally sprinkle the Cheese Hooies with sugar. I was suspicious about adding sugar to a salty cheese biscuit, but I gave it a shot. I tried sprinkling with both icing and white sugar before and after baking. The Hooies are so salty that I couldn't taste the white sugar at all! The icing sugar melted into the Hooies as they baked, so if you do want to give the sugar sprinkling a try, I suggest icing sugar added after baking.

Cheese Hooies (sprinkled with icing sugar) versus Cayenne Cheeses

Read the Cookbook: