No, not cheesy gastropods. That would be more like the smog monster from Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. That’s a cheesy gastropod.
For Cheddar Snails, think of something like cinnamon rolls, only made with cheese instead of the cinnamon and sugar. And, yes, you can have them for breakfast or lunch or dinner or even snacks. You can have these snails pretty much anytime you want. Sound good? Let’s scratch some up!
We saw some version of these in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman, but all we did was take the idea and run with it, so we have no idea how closely it matches that particular recipe, if at all. Of course, that gives you the same license, so just take the idea and run with it, making your own version. Perhaps they’ll be Swiss Spirals, Wensleydale Wheels, or Comte Curls.
The only thing you need to remember with this recipe is that baked cheese loses some of its flavor, so choose a strong-flavored cheese. Then match some herb to the cheese. It could be oregano, rosemary, or dill, instead of thyme. The onion is there to add a bit of savory flavor. Remember that if you want the onion mild, soak the onion dice in cold water for 15 minutes. Just drain thoroughly before using. Finally, all the work for this recipe is in the dough — we give you complete instructions here, but you could use a different bread dough recipe that you like, instead.
Procedure in detail:
Butter. All good recipes start with butter, so generously butter an 8×8 inch baking dish. You’ll be baking something cheesy in there, so don’t skimp on the butter, or you’ll be spending more time cleaning.
Roll dough. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 16 inches. Sometimes it’s actually a little easier if the dough sticks to the surface a bit; it doesn’t spring back. If it’s very springy, let it sit for 15 minutes to relax, then have at it again.
Top dough. Spread the cheese evenly over the dough, followed by the diced onion and the thyme, paying attention to get the toppings all the way to the edge of the dough. If you don’t get the edges, you’ll end up with two snails that are light on filling.
Roll dough. Working from one end of the dough, carefully roll it up to form a spiral log about 12 inches long.
Slice. For us, this was the most difficult part — not the slicing per se, but getting nine evenly thick slices. Eight would be easy; just keep slicing pieces in half until you have eight slices, but nine required a few trial markings. Also, it’s easier to slice dough with a serrated knife using a light sawing motion. Place the slices in your prepared pan.
Refrigerate. Cover the cheddar snails with plastic wrap, and, if you want them tomorrow for brunch (we did), refrigerate overnight. Otherwise, just let them rise, undisturbed, for about an hour, or until the dough is very soft — when pressed lightly with a finger, it doesn’t spring back. If you refrigerate the snails, remove them from the refrigerator about an hour before baking.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
Bake. Bake the Cheddar snails for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling away and beginning to brown.
Stand. You can eat these while they’re still super hot, but we think you’ll like them even more if you wait 20 to 30 minutes for them to cool. The cheese will recover some of its flavor and the bread portion will have a better texture. Once cooled a bit, serve.
These Cheddar snails have the texture of cinnamon rolls, but, instead of being sweet and cloying, they are nice and savory. We had some with a piece of fruit for lunch — kind of a warm cheese sandwich — them finished them off the next morning for breakfast. The onion adds just a touch of savory flavor, not enough to make the snails taste like onion, but just enough to add some complexity to the flavor profile. Thyme was perfect with the Cheddar cheese, adding to the savoriness. Our only complaint was that they could have had a stronger flavored Cheddar (we used Tillamook sharp Cheddar). But even so, five stars easy.