First I searched for a recipe that I thought resembled the one I used to have. I found a nice simple one from What's For Dinner?:
1/2 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 lb butter, softened
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 teaspoons water
Cream cheese and butter. Add dry ingredients and water. Refrigerate for one hour. Roll into balls and flatten to 1 inch thick on baking sheet. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.Notes
1. Back in the day, I had no kitchen equipment, so I did everything by hand, including creaming the butter and cheese. Because I was trying to recreate that first recipe, I did the same thing this time, including mixing the dough. The creaming is easier than it sounds and can be done in front of the TV. Just be sure you really let the butter soften (not melt) before you go at it with a wooden spoon. Also, I really like that moment when you're stirring clumps of ingredients that refuse to play nice, and then all of a sudden it just resolves into dough. That said, I have a lot of time on my hands.
2. I also grate the cheese myself. The recipe I had specified that it be grated fresh, so I've never tried it with the bagged, pre-shredded kind. The very light texture of freshly grated cheese makes it cream into the butter really well, but if you're using a food processor you could probably use the other kind.
3. I hate sifting. I think in a previous life I must have lost a limb or a spouse to some kind of violent sifting accident. Or I'm just lazy. Either way, I simply under-measure the flour a little in recipes like these where it doesn't really matter, run a fork through the lumps, and it works out fine.
4. After you've rolled the dough into balls, flatten them gently with the tines of a fork, and then again perpendicular to the first press, to make a cross-hatch pattern that will give the cookies a nice texture when they're baked. I prefer parchment paper for this.
5. Anyone in the house who really likes cheese is going to become extremely eager for a taste of these cookies, especially if they happen to smell the dough on you.
6. I found 15 minutes was enough to bake the cookies thoroughly, but on the second batch I added 5 minutes, which browned them a bit more without sacrificing any of the texture.
7. I was fooling around with different sizes of cookie so this recipe yielded 33, but you could easily make more if you have the patience to roll smaller dough balls. And since they're insanely rich, this is a good idea.
I definitely recommend this recipe. The cookies came out flaky on the outside and moist on the inside, very much like my old recipe. XpresoAdct declared them "Cheez-Its in cookie form." Next time I might try extra-sharp cheddar, and I would probably double the paprika, which I like when you can see it in the cookies. I usually recommend dipping them in salsa, but we discovered that they are sensational with barbecue sauce as well.