Cheese straws and obesity

You should make this recipe as soon as possible, because it is that awesome. But I will identify why I think this sheds some interesting light on the obesity problem:

Cheese Straws
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon half-and-half or cream or milk

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, or use a pastry knife if you lack a food processor. Add the dairy and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
  • On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza wheel), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut).
  • Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet leaving at least 1/4-inch between them. The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.
  • Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days. They will not last an hour at a party.
  • Recipe from smitten kitchen, which is a great website – you should go there and read for a while, I’ll be here when you get back ;).

    So, why do I think that this sheds some light on the obesity problem? Because, as utterly amazing as these cheese straws are, they are a hyper-palatable food.

    Wait, what’s a hyper-palatable food? In a nutshell, they are foods that are laden almost – but not quite – to the excess point with fat, salt, and sugar. They fall just short of being sickeningly sweet, inedibly salty, or leaving a puddle of grease behind. The effect of this is to over-stimulate your brain’s pleasure/reward system which leaves you craving more even when you are already full.

    To deconstruct this recipe, it has fat (cheese, butter, dairy); salt (salt and cheese); sweet (lactose in the dairy and caramelised proteins in the browned bits of the stick); and protein (also known as umami) – cheese again. Add in the crushed red pepper and you have capsaicin, which activates all your taste buds.

    Putting it simply, if you eat one of these you will reach for another while still chewing the first mouthful. This explains how so much junk food, burgers, pizzas, and so on get sold every year – people are almost addicted to the “rush” they get from ingesting the hyper-palatable, fatty, salty, sugary food-type-substances that are being sold with billion dollar advertising budgets.

    I am serious when I say “make this recipe”. It tastes awesome, but it is also deeply educational when you start paying attention to what is going on in your mouth and in your brain. In my case, it is helping me avoid junk foods, which will reflect itself in my waistline in due course.

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