Sometimes it’s hard to get your family to support your dreams. Your family might dissuade you from flying over the Sahara in a hot air balloon, or opening a refuge for troubled baboons. Luckily for me, my family supports my dream to eat junk food and then write about it. My parents are my champions- this was abundantly clear when my dad presented me with various bags of Texas junk upon my arrival at the homestead.
While the UK excels at meat-flavored carbohydrate-based snacks, the U.S., particularly the Southwestern U.S., excels at cheese-flavored snacks. I’ve noticed that a cornucopia of cheese snacks are available in Texas, and the Texas grocery chain H-E-B’s cup of runneth over.
H-E-B is a cheesy poof innovator. A couple of years ago, I tasted their buffalo blue cheese poofs. I’m not usually a fan of blue cheese, but those poofs are delish, because the buffalo flavor is more pronounced than the blue cheese flavor. (I suspect that real blue cheese flavor is difficult to replicate in a processed cheesy poof). On this trip to Texas, I had the pleasure of trying H-E-B’s Hijole Cheese Balls and their Reduced Sodium Intense Cheese Puffs.
Regarding the latter, while I know it’s healthy to watch salt intake, sometimes watching salt intake has an inverse relationship with general happiness, so my natural inclination is to be wary of reduced sodium junk food. However, it’s obviously great for people on strict diets. These snacks focus on the rich, buttery flavor of cheese, rather than the savory tang imparted by good ‘ol American sodium. I didn’t mind the buttery flavor, but my family wasn’t enthusiastic about the lack of salt. These puffs were tasty, but not a huge draw.
On the other hand, the Hijole Cheese Balls are muy fantastico (nb- apparently Hijole Cheese Balls translates to Wow Cheese Balls, which is more than appropriate in this case). They combine the lime, cheese, and chili flavors that help make Mexican food delicious. They’re salty, cheesy, and slightly spicy. They have a perfect cheesy poof consistency- not rough enough to grate your palate, but not mushy enough to dissolve in your mouth like one of those biodegradable packing peanuts (I know I’m not the only person who’s been dared to eat one of those peanuts).
I’m sad that the Hijole Cheese Balls aren’t more widely available. Maybe I should import them into the UK…or maybe not, because the British may not be ready for Texas-strength cheesy poof firecrackers.
I started thinking about Doritos dust, and whether one could create it at home. After a quick search, I found this recipe. My first reaction was “duh, this is also known as seasoning, not flavor powder” (See prior post). My second reaction was unbridled excitement. My third reaction was “uuuggghhh, nutritional yeast.” This recipe uses nutritional yeast instead of cheese. Obviously, it’s a vegan site, so they’re not using dairy. I like experimenting with non-dairy comfort food recipes, like mac and cheese with rice or almond milk. I’m not knocking non-dairy alternatives generally. However, I am knocking nutritional yeast as a replacement for cheese. It just doesn’t do it for me. I can definitely understand using it for this recipe, because it’s probably easier to get the Doritos dust consistency right with nutritional yeast, because it’s flaky.
I did some more research, looking for alternatives, and most of the recipes for Doritos dust on the web included nutritional yeast. I realized that it was time for me to figure out how to make real “flavor powder,” because I was all “f’ing dessicated cheese, how does that work?” (See Miracles at 1:53).
Apparently the best way to turn cheese into delicious cheesy powder is to use a dehydrator. Do people have dehydrators handy? I certainly do not. Enter Amazon.
There are a bunch of cheese powders available on Amazon. They range from “all natural” to “cheese flavor.” I looked beyond Amazon, and I found this from The Spice House. It’s all natural, but it ain’t cheap. This would be good if you want your junk food real classy-like. There’s also this white cheddar variety from King Arthur Flour. It’s also pretty classy.
During my research, I also found this very interesting New Yorker article about the history of cheese powder, it’s “opioid-like effects,” and its use by the U.S. military. It’s a good, albeit slightly depressing, read.
Wotsits are basically cheesy poofs, which means I hold them in esteem. Unlike other types of cheesy poofs, these do taste more like actual cheese, and less like “cheese food,” which can be a bit more…tangy.
They’re also softer and dissolve faster than more artificial varieties of cheesy poof. This is important, because one of the saddest types of unintentional self-inflicted injuries is a food-related palate abrasion. All of you Sour Patch Kid, Lemon Warhead, and jumbo cheesy poof fans know what I’m talking about. Nacho chips can also cause this problem…depending on the volume and velocity of your consumption (this sounds like a sad attempt at a “real-life” math problem). I also noticed that the Wotsits are all very evenly shaped. In short, Wotsits are the ideal cheesy poof for orderly people with sensitive mouths.