Cheetos are one of those mysterious processed snacks where the final texture and flavor does little to explain its manufacturing process. Did you see that Wired magazine piece a few years ago with photos of the cornmeal mixture passing through an extruder into a fryer and then getting coated with cheese powder? Informative, yes. Useful for home experiments? Not so much.
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In Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, Casey Barber presents her own interpretation of the Cheeto. Instead of trying to replicate it, she simply creates a buttery, flaky base with flour and cornmeal, rolls the dough into logs, and bakes the puffs in the oven. The final step is that generous coating of bright orange cheese powder. These Cheetos are certainly different than the ones you'll find in the red bags, but they're still pretty darn good.
Why I picked this recipe: Having not the first clue how to make Cheetos at home, I jumped at the opportunity to try my hand at Barber's technique.
What worked: These Cheeto-like snacks were easy to make, and the cheddar powder flavor was stick-to-your-fingers good.
What didn't: The texture was a little off; these cheese puffs were more like shortbread logs than Cheetos. Next time I'll go up on the cornmeal for more authentic Cheeto grit.
Suggested tweaks: Just like the Goldfish, these Cheetos would be easy to amp up; more flavorful cheese like sharp cheddar or even pepper jack would be right at home here.