Oma's Legendary Kaastengels

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Oma is so famous for her kaastengels aka cheesesticks. While others get to enjoy them during Christmas, we lucky ducks get to enjoy it year-round. And she makes a LOT of it. She may as well, because once she gets her portable oven and 10-or-so baking sheets out, she may as well feed the town. Nah, we so selfish, we want it all to ourselves :D

We've waited quite a bit to wrangle this recipe off her, Oma usually prefers to bring it over as a treat for the kids. However, lately, it's becoming too tedious for her to manage baking such a big batch on her own, she finally acquiesced and mixed and baked it in our kitchen. That's when I got the chance to actually weigh all the ingredients before she dunked them in her massive mixing bowl.

It isn't that Oma doesn't want to share her recipes ... not that at all! It's that she relies so much on look and feel that she never bothered to weigh or measure her ingredients, rightly saying that the amounts will vary whether it is the dry or rainy season. Yes, humidity also plays a part in baking as I found out when I tried the exact measurements on my own. So much to learn, so little time.

Also, Oma uses a few types of butters ... the refrigerated kind, which is usually 80% butterfat, makes up 2/3 of the amount of butter used in this recipe, and the canned Dutch preserved butter which I found was 84% butterfat, which makes up the 1/3 amount of the butter used. However, in the absence of the tinned Dutch Wijsman butter, I used Plugra, a higher fat European style butter which had 82% butterfat. Just to compare, the Kirkland butter from Costco which I usually swear by has just 80% butterfat. No, not all butters are created equal.

Then there's the cheese. Edam is non-negotiable in your typical kaastengel recipe. Made from partly skimmed milk, it is lower in milk fat (40%) than let's say Gouda (48%), and it is drier and lighter, so it won't melt and flow a lot when cooked or baked. So please, make kaastengels only when you can get your hands on Edam cheese.

Cheddar is the other cheese used in typical kaastengels recipe. It has a nutty aroma, and it's rounded sharpness complements Edam very well. Also, cheddar will melt more than Edam, binding the rest of the dough, giving it a better mouthfeel. I usually use a mature, old or sharp cheddar for this purpose.

With all that being said, these measurements below are as much of a recipe as it is a template. And we inevitably need to compensate and allow for subtle changes. I baked a small batch using a combination of both butters and found that my kaastengels were spreading too much too soon, so I added a bit of flour to 'stiffen' them up and baked them at a higher temperature for a wee bit shorter time. After two trials, it was perfect! At least for me it was.

So then, try this recipe, make it your own. And let's remember that nothing goes to waste for you can also eat your trials and errors ;)

900 g butter
4 egg yolks
600 g Edam cheese, grated
200 g Cheddar cheese, grated
1200 g all purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp salt

4 yolks for glazing
200 g Cheddar cheese, grated, for topping


1. In a large bowl, soften butter with a mixer, then add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing it well until homogenous.
2. Still with the mixer, drop in handfuls of grated Edam and cheddar cheese.

3. Switch to a wooden spoon, then stir in the flour, adding it a handful at a time as well.
4. At one point, it will require you to work with your hands. Add a little, then fold it in, taking care not to 'punch' the dough down.
At this point, the dough should be pliable enough, a little on the softer side, and not too firm as cookie dough. Trial and error and practice makes perfect.

5. Shape into small 'sticks' by taking a small ball and rolling it gently between the palms.
The OCD in me makes them between 10-12 grams each.
6. Place the sticks on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Alternatively, shape into small balls of not more than 1.5cm across, or one can even use the cookie piping gizmo. We even shaped it into letters!

As you work with the dough, turn it over once in a while so as not to let the butter settle on the bottom of the dough.

7. With a brush, gently glaze the tops with egg yolks.
8. Place a bit of grated cheddar cheese on top.
9. Bake on medium heat, 160C for about 30-40 minutes until top turns golden.
10. Let rest for a few minutes before removing from the baking sheet.

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