In the Netherlands, we really love our cheese: cheese cut in cubes dipped in mustard, cheese toast, cheese sandwiches, cheese soufflé (and not necessarily that fancy French type, but a deep-fried variety), cheese, cheese, everything cheese.
These cheese cookies, or kaasbolletjes (meaning ‘little cheese balls’), I’m sharing with you today (not literally sharing, of course, I ate all of mine already) are a popular Dutch snack to accompany a glass of wine, or beer and, of course, kids enjoy snacking on them as well (minus the wine, or beer). You will find these savory treats at any supermarket, often sold in a variety box with other types of buttery and cheesy biscuits (some of which you don’t care for and which will end up going stale in the box), or you may find a more deluxe version of these at a good bakery as well (but for a heftier price than you care to pay for a snack that you will wholly consume within minutes after opening the package). While they’re easily available, doesn’t it sound better to have your own batch of hot, buttery, crisp and crumbly cookies straight from the oven? Making these only takes a couple of ingredients and few minutes and the only downside I can see is that these savory treats are dangerously difficult to keep your hands off – I would be amazed if you’d manage not to eat them all in one day!
Now, while I say that these are Dutch cheese cookies (which mine might be because I’m Dutch and I’ve used aged Gouda, but that would be it), I don’t care about being too particular about the origins of this treat and its ingredients. I am well aware that many countries will have a similar version of this savory old-fashioned cheese snack and that they need not strictly be Dutch, which is a good thing since it means that you can replace the Gouda cheese in this recipe with any aged cheese you prefer, or any mixture of cheeses you have leftover hanging out in the back of your fridge… make them ‘Italian’ by adding grated Parmigiano Reggiano, ‘Greek’ by adding aged Graviera, or Kefalotyri, ‘French’ by adding aged Mimolette, or ‘Swiss’ by adding aged Gruyère.
Speaking about using different flavorings: these savory cookies are great without any additional seasonings if you use a potent and zesty cheese, but I still like to use cumin seeds, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds to flavor and decorate them. To make a real party treat, I suggest you divide the dough into two, or three equal pieces and make some differently flavored and decorated cheese cookies from the same batch of dough!
Tip #1: This recipe stands or falls with the quality of the butter and cheese – I mean, there’s not much else in these cookies! Make sure you use good-quality (REAL) butter and a flavorful aged hard cheese.
Tip #2: Don’t bake your cookies too long, or the cheese will taste burnt/bitter. It’s better if the cookies are slightly pale, than bitter-tasting.
Dutch Savory Cheese Cookies / Kaasbolletjes
- 250g all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 180g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 250g aged Gouda, grated
- 1 small egg, for brushing
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
- Poppy seeds, or sesame seeds, for decorating (optional)
MethodNote: The amount of dough in this recipe will yield about 60 little cookies (more or less, depending on the size you are rolling them in). This recipe suggests you divide the savoury dough into two, or three pieces after 'step 2', to make slightly different types of cookies: 'regular cheese', cumin, and poppy/sesame seeds, but, of course, you can choose to decorate, or flavour all of the dough any way you like.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Make the savoury dough: In a bowl, mix the flour with a pinch of salt, then add the chilled butter and all of the grated cheese. Knead ingredients together until it forms a dough. It may look like the dough is too crumbly at first, but it should come together at one point. If the mixture really is way too crumbly, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cold water (but not too much).[Optional] If you plan on making differently flavoured/decorated cookies, divide the dough into 2, or 3 equal pieces depending on how many flavours you want. If you choose to flavour (some of) your cheese cookies with cumin (or other aromatics) like I do, add about 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds to (some of) the dough during this step so that the seeds are mixed through the dough.]
- Shape cheese cookies: Line a baking tray with baking paper. With your hands, roll pieces of the dough into small balls about the size of a fat cherry. Distribute the little balls over the baking tray with a couple of centimeters between them.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush some egg-wash over the dough-balls.
- [Optional] Decorate the cookies: For plain cheese and cumin-flavoured cookies, I leave the dough-balls as they are with just some egg-wash on them, or I sprinkle on some more grated cheese over the top for decoration. Alternatively, sprinkle some poppy- or sesame seeds over the top of (some of) the dough-balls making the seeds stick to the egg-wash, or gently pick up your cookies and roll them through some seeds in a small bowl.
- Bake cheese cookies: Place the tray(s) with cheese cookies into the preheated oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until slightly golden (don't over-bake: baking them too long will make them bitter). You may have to bake in batches.