Photograph by Gentl and Hyers food styling by Maggie Ruggiero 
Prop Styling by Ayesha Patel

Helga Testorf

Braided Cheese Straws

Amuse-Bouche from Issue 11 – Summer 2017 – Heroines

In 1986, it was revealed that Andrew Wyeth had been painting his neighbor’s wife, a stout Prussian woman with braided blonde pigtails named Helga Testorf, in secret for the past 15 years. Though she shunned the media attention, Testorf told one biographer of the experience: “I became alive. I’ve never done anything more worthwhile.” For the most recognizable girl next door: cheese straws braided as her hair was.

makes 12 braids, serves 6 to 12

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp ice-cold cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp ice-cold milk
  • 1 cup (2 ¼ oz) grated extra sharp cheddar

  • 1

    Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • 2

    Pulse the flour, salt, and smoked paprika in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it forms a coarse meal. Pulse in vinegar and 3 Tbsp milk. If dough doesn’t hold well, add the remaining Tbsp milk. Pulse in the cheese just until evenly combined.

  • 3

    Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to roughly the size of an 11 x 14 inch rectangle and ⅛ -inch thick. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan, cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

  • 4

    Cut dough into ¼ inch strips. Working with three strips at a time, gently braid, slightly rotating each strip inward to keep braid snug. If dough gets too soft, chill briefly. Bake until just golden, 15 to 18 minutes.