Saturday, November 05, 2011

Cassava (manioc) cheese bread: Pão de queijo

As I mentioned in my last post, Brazil has a popular snack and breakfast food called
pão de queijo, a kind of chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside (but not too crisp) muffin/popover/roll/bread made from cassava (mandioca) flour, egg, milk, oil, salt, and cheese. They can be made tiny or large, depending on one's preference. Traditionally pão de queijo is a dough that is kneaded and individual rolls are formed by hand. However, recent adaptations have resulted in a faster, easier version that can be made in muffin tins. That's the first one I tried. Just like adding more liquid to a biscuit dough means you can make drop biscuits, adding extra liquid to the batter means that instead of cooking the  pão de queijo on flat pans like cookie sheets, you can simply pour the batter into greased muffin tins. 

I decided for my first effort to use the 2 types of cassava flour that are available in Brazil: polvilho doce and polvilho azedo--sweet and sour as I explained previously. (By the way, a big "thank you" to my husband and our Brazilian friends Virginia and Renato for going to the store for the flour the day he left Brazil.) Soon I'll experiment with some Ghanaian kokonte (cassava flour). Incidentally, Brazilians have found a way to package and export their bread as a mix. I'll try that, too, but I'm afraid it might be like eating instant mashed potatoes: better than nothing, but nothing like the real thing.
First I assembled the utensils:
  • An electric blender
  • 2 mini-muffin tins (I like petite-sized pão de queijo)
  • A brush to brush oil into the tins
  • A scale to weigh the flours (since I was making this the first time I both measured and weighed the flours)
  • Assorted U.S. standard measuring cups and spoons (3/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup, 1 teaspoon)
  • A rubber spatula 
 And ingredients: flours, salt, egg (room temperature is best), milk, oil (I used olive), cheese (I used half queso fresco, a Mexican mild semi-soft crumbly cheese, and half grated Parmesan cheese).

Quick Basic Brazilian  Pão de Queijo 

  • Set the oven to preheat at 375 °F  (NOTE: I used 400 °F but the bread browned a little too quickly for me) 
  • Pour some oil into one of the muffin cups in the muffin tins, and use a brush to coat each of the cups well (I had 2 mini-muffin tins, so coated 24 cups).
Add to the blender container:
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup oil (olive, soy, etc.)
  • slightly less than 3/4 cup each of  polvilho doce  and polvilho azedo, enough to get about 180 grams (OR, use only one of the flours, or change the proportions. It is probably possible to substitute tapioca flour, but I've not tried that yet)
  • 2/3 cup milk (I warmed mine for a minute in the microwave before adding it)
  • 3/4  teaspoon salt, or to taste 
  • 1/2 cup packed cheese (I used 1/4 cup of the hard Parmesan cheese, grated, and chunks of the queso fresco)
  • Cover the blender container and pulse the mixture for about 30 seconds. Stop, uncover the blender and use the spatula to scrap down the sides. Recover and repeat until the mixture is well blended. This only takes a minute or so.
  • Fill each muffin cup a good 1/2 full and cook in the preheated oven for about about 20 minutes. The pão de queijo should be just slightly golden. Extra batter can be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days.
 Pão de queijo is best eaten straight from the oven while still warm. As it cools it get tougher. My husband declared these delicious, and amazingly the 2 dozen quickly disappeared with cups of tea (it would be coffee in Brazil).

I'm eager to try making these with kokonte. I understand that in parts of South America (Colombia?) the cassava flour is supplemented with corn flour. In Ghana other seasoning, like cinnamon or herbs, can be added.

Can't you imagine how delicious the possibilities are? It troubles me that in much of Africa it seems wheat flour is assumed to be THE ingredient for bread-making. In Brazil, people can cut the larger-sized  pão de queijo  and make them into sandwiches, especially filling them with sweet fruit-based fillings. My husband added an African touch by eating his with peanuts and hot sauce!

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