05 August 2013

Pan Fried Cheese Sticks

It's been a while since I've done a recipe this complicated.  Partly because I do try to keep all my recipes on the easy side and also because I just haven't had time to invest in anything that takes more than an hour in quite a while.  This is a bit of a departure from the norm, but it is totally worth the time and effort.  That is truly all it requires, though.  No additional skill, just time and a little more work.  

Don't let the yeast dough intimidate you.  I have empathy if using yeast scares the bejeezus out of you because I used to feel the same way.  Now yeast doughs are my friends and I am definitely the better for it.  These sticks are a lot like the cheese sticks you can get at pizza restaurants except they are pan fried instead of baked.  That difference is a huge one, too, since it means no hot oven in the middle of the hot summer.  I also took advantage of the heat outside by covering my dough with plastic wrap and putting it outside to rise.  My air conditioned kitchen isn't quite warm enough for yeast-rising, but the balmy summer temperatures are just perfect.

Another trick that makes these super easy is that they are filled with string cheese.  Yep, you know the stuff you loved eating as a kid.  There is one thing to pay attention to, though.  Be sure the string cheese you buy is all natural, real cheese.  The fake stuff doesn't melt properly and turns strangely plastic.  I found that out the hard way during a previous cooking experiment.  You just let the dough rise, roll it out, cut it into strips, wrap it around chunks of string cheese, and pan fry it.  It's simple.  Just give yourself a couple of hours to get it all done and you will be rewarded for your efforts.  The yeasty, buttery bread around the melty, stringy, gooey cheese is enough to send me over the moon.  My three year old helped roll out and wrap the dough around the cheese and he is in complete agreement.

i can't get a non-blurry picture of the kid, though.  he is in constant motion.
Pan Fried Cheese Sticks
makes about 16 sticks

1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, divided
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3 1/2 cups flour
16 sticks string cheese

In a small skillet over medium low heat combine the milk and 1/4 cup butter.  Heat until the butter is halfway melted, stirring occasionally; remove from heat.  In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water; set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, and egg.  Add the milk and butter and stir until well combined.  Add 1 cup of the flour; beat well.  Stir in the yeast.  Add the remaining flour and stir or beat with a dough hook until it all comes together into a stiff dough.  Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in volume.

Divide the dough in half.  Roll out hale of the dough on a well floured surface into a 14x8" rectangle.  Cut the dough into eight 7x2" pieces.  Put a piece of string cheese onto each piece of dough.  Bring the dough around the cheese, pinching the edges to seal the dough shut.  Place the sticks seam side down on a rimmed baking sheet.  Cover; let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Heat 1/4 cup butter in a large, deep skillet on medium heat.  Add the sticks to the pan, cooking them for about 2 minutes on each side.  Turn the sticks carefully to brown all the sides.  Add more butter if necessary.  Serve hot.  You can reheat any leftover sticks in a 350° oven for 15 minutes.

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