This is another offering I took to the poetry reading. The recipe found its way into the family cookbook many years ago when my sister-in-law sent it to Susan from California. She had made hidden olives for a cocktail party, and they got rave reviews. Now the reason that the recipe made it into the cookbook is not because it is delicious – even though it is – but rather because of the laughs that go along with it. The first time she tried the recipe, Susan used jumbo-size olives and the individual pieces turned out also to be JUMBO. At the time, Bernadette Peters was making us all laugh with her advertisement for a medication for indigestion. “What a big dumpling,” her on-screen husband say. “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” We, Susan included, thought that the hidden olives were our equivalent of the television big dumpling. If you decide to try the recipe, there are two things to remember about the olives: (1) use small olives, and (2) use olives that have had the seed removed.
For this version, I added butter to make the dough come together. It worked, but it probably also enhanced spreading in the oven. Try the recipe without butter; you can always add some if you need to. Note that with that addition, the recipe is nearly identical with the Southern classic, cheese straws.
- 1 pound sharp or extra sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup flour
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, cut in ½ inch cubes
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 32 small pimiento-stuffed olives (a 5 ounce jar should contain more than enough)
- Grate the cheese and let stand at room temperature until soft.
- Place the grated cheese, flour, butter, cayenne, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the ingredients come together as a smooth, soft dough.
- On a work surface, shape the dough into a round ball. Cut in half. Shape each half into a ball and again cut in half. Repeat three more times. You should have 32 equal-sized pieces of dough.
- One by one, press an olive into the center of one of the pieces of dough, covering the olive completely and rolling between your palms to form a ball.
- Arrange the olive-filled balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat, leaving at least 1½ inches between the balls. They will spread during baking.
- Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
- Reheat for a few minutes to serve warm, if possible, though they’re still good at room temperature.