Making Cheetos At Home
This was sorta kinda touched upon briefly in 2006 with this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/339798 but it wasn't very satisfying.
For me, Crunchy Cheetos have always been one of those weird snacks that I adore but cannot really recognize as "actual food" because I have no idea how they are made. I know from reading the package that they are made of corn meal and vegetable oil, with powdered cheese and sour cream as the main flavorings. From Wikipedia, I now know that they are a "heated dough that is extruded and then fried or baked". So, is it like a strange cousin of pate au choux? Is it really a dough made of nothing but corn meal, vegetable oil and salt, piped into hot oil? Could it really be so simple? I will experiment with any suggestions posted and then relay the results.
IrisLaRue, I have to ask: Why would you want to make something that exists in its Platonic form already, available extremely cheaply at any 7-11?
I mean, you'd have to create a weird, tangy cheese powder, then learn some bizarre industrial process of exploding corn meal into those tortuous gnarls of deliciousness. Reminds me of the worst, food-hostile excesses of the execrable molecular gastronomy (AKA food abuse) world.
I say just buy a bag of the real thing and enjoy it. Frito-Lay's snacks are generally best-in-class in most respects. Making Cheetos at home is like refilming "Showgirls" on a camcorder with your best girlfriends over nine bottles of white Zin.
Marc Summers on Food Networks "Unwrapped" had a segment on snack foods and they featured Cheetos. The top secret is the extruding process at high pressure to make the "puffed" thing before they put the cheese on it. So I don't think you're going to have much success in trying to duplicate it at home.
There is a special place in hell reserved for naysayers.
Salty deep-fried pate au choux coated with cheese dust works for me. I say go for it. You don't have to worry about shelf life at home. That's a huge obstacle in creating this stuff. You get to improve on the original since you can make them to please your palate.
Flamin' hot cheetos are the liquid oxygen that jolts the smoldering embers of my reward center into supernovae every time. Pair with a cold corona and slice of lime.
I'm in the 'why not try' group here. My guess is that you can't duplicate the Cheetos. But maybe you can find something cool and possibly better as you try. That being said, I'm not sure choux is your best base. It doesn't do well at creating tiny air pockets. I'm thinking a batter that had baking soda/powder would work better. The key part though may be the "extruding" into the hot oil. Right now I'm thinking a spaetzle press would work well - it would certainly be speedy!