Publishing a cookbook to raise money for a community group or project has been going on in the United States for a long, long time. When the Junior League of Charleston, South Carolina did it in 1950, it was hardly a new idea. But Charleston Receipts distinguished itself among the many. To this day, it is still in print and enjoys a popularity well beyond city and region.
Eventually, the League authored two more books–Charleston Receipt Repeats and Party Receipts. The member who contributed Cheese Bites to Party Receipts suggests that you “serve them on a warming tray or bake a few at a time” to be sure people eat them while they’re hot. Unequipped with a warming tray and disinclined to try multiple bakings, the Cheese Bites you will make are good anyway–hot and cool.
Lucie Hall Maguire’s original recipe is modified only a little in this version of:
Cheese Bites (makes about 40)
- 3 ounces of cream cheese
- 4 ounces or 8 Tablespoons of butter
- 1/4 pound of Cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 egg whites
- about 4 cups of dried out cubes of bread: Mrs. Maguire suggests using ‘Wonder Bread’. The version in the photos was made from leftover pieces of ciabatta, French baguette, and ‘country-style’ bread, which were cut into cubes of about 1-inch, stored in the freezer, and thawed in a big bowl before making Cheese Bites. If you use fresh bread, cut it in cubes and let it dry out for a few hours or a day.
- 1 teaspoon of coarse-grained Dijon mustard
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- a baking sheet
- a heavy pot
- Parchment paper
- a long-handled fork or wooden skewer
- a freezer storage container or bag
1. Use leftover cubes of bread or dry out fresh cubes for a few hours or a day.
2. Making Cheese Bites illustrates the usefulness of a digital kitchen scale. You can place the pot on the scale and measure the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, butter, Dijon and cayenne straight into it, one after the other:
3. Melt the cheese mixture, stirring. Using a heavy pot is helpful for melting the cheese evenly and preventing the mixture from cooling quickly later–but it’s not essential:
4. Set the pot of melted cheeses aside. Beat the two egg whites until you can turn the bowl upside down and the whites don’t slide down the sides of it. Add the whites to the pot of cheese mixture and fold them into it:
5. Streak the baking sheet in several places with butter to keep the parchment paper from slipping around on the pan and line the baking sheet with the paper. Arrange the pan, bowl of bread and pot of cheese alongside each other:
6. Skewer a piece of bread and dip it down into the cheese mixture to cover it–just as though you were having a cheese fondue:
7. Place the covered cubes on the baking sheet:
8. Place the tray of cheese-covered bread cubes in the freezer. When the cheese has hardened completely, store the cubes in some sort of freezer container:
9. To bake them, preheat the oven to 400 F. Place as many frozen cubes as you want to bake on a buttered baking sheet and put them in the oven for about 12 minutes, or until they are golden and puffed.
10. Toothpicks are useful for picking up the Cheese Bites while they are still hot:
A Note: One of the hors d’oeuvres in the Dinner Menu: A Welcome Dinner for an Out-of-Town Visitor who has Traveled Far is Cheese Bites.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011