Monday, July 9, 2012

Cheese Bread - Gluten Friendly Fun!

     Pão de Queijo ("poun" "dgee" "kay-dgoh")

Meaning cheese bread in English, pão de queijo is the staple starch of Brazil. Well, french bread is actually THE staple starch of Brazil, but cheese bread is a very close second. This yummy little bread is mainly eaten as breakfast and as a late afternoon snack, but can be found practically anywhere at any time of the day. They range in size, and can be very soft or crunchy on the outside. Inside reveals a delicious cheesy, chewy texture. Most prefer their cheese bread to be every warm to steaming hot; fresh out of the oven. Cheese bread is mostly consumed alone with coffee. The two compliment each other very well. I often see cheese bread cut in half and filled with things such as cheese, butter, or doce de leite. Cheese bread can be eaten with pretty much anything, as it is good with salty or sweet additions. For a quick lunch, I sometimes make mini sandwiches with them... and they are delicious. No  matter where you are staying in Brazil, always expect to see cheese bread on the table in the morning or late afternoon, as these are the times of the day when cheese bread is traditionally consumed. A lot of people will enjoy a tiny cup of Brazilian coffee with cheese bread at about 3-4pm in the afternoon, in addition to their morning routine.
        Though gluten free, each individual cheese bread can contain 80 calories and upwards depending on it's size and ingredients. This is a great option for people who are sensitive to gluten or are just trying to cut down on carbs. 
       There are TONS of recipes out there for cheese bread. If you live in Brazil, it seems the easiest option is to just go to your nearest deli and buy them already made; as they are quite cheap. Cheese bread mixes are also pretty easy to find in Brazil, and usually just a few ingredients need to be added in order to make them yourself. In Brazil there are also many stores that actually sell the cheesebread already made, and frozen. You just need to bring them home and pop them in the oven when you want them. But if you live in Brazil, you know these quick options don't make for the best cheese bread. It's all about making them fresh. I have found that preparing an entire batch of it is most economical, as I have the option on using only how much I need at the moment, and can freeze the leftover batch until I need it again. I can make a batch of cheese bread dough last for about 5 days, if I make about 8 a day. I make them in the morning, and there are usually leftovers which are eaten as snacks later on. There are only 3 people in my family, though. A batch of Pão de queijo usually runs me about 6 reais give or take depending on what ingredients I may or may not already have at home. This is cheaper than going to the padaria everyday and buying them already made. 
       For those who live outside of Brazil, there are still options available to you if you have an international market. When I lived in the states, I found both the complete mixes AND pre-made frozen versions at a number of international markets and Mexican markets. Rare that you will find them at Mexican markets, but sometimes the mexican markets sort of serve as a link to the central and south american world for their community, so it's important to check them out. If you are looking in an international market, check for the brand Yoki for your complete mix. You will only need to add milk,oil, and eggs, then follow the directions as listed on the package. I bought the pre-made frozen kind from an international market in St. Louis, once for Thanksgiving, and they turned out horrible. I don't recommend using those if you are not in Brazil. They are probably pretty old and they don't seem to react pleasantly when baking. The ones I bought barely rose, and ended up being super hard. Not how they're supposed to turn out! For those who are interested in making their own cheese bread, you will need to make a trip to either an international market, or speciality store, to buy what is called manioc starch. This is the flour derived from Mandioca. I know you can also find this at Whole Foods Market if you have one. 
       If buying flour in Brazil, you will see a lot of option before you in the store regarding mandioca flour. This is because they use mandioca for every kind of starch imaginable. If you try to look to much into it, you will confuse yourself. I have seen cheese bread recipes using all kinds of things from fecula de mandioca, polvilho doce, polvilho doce azedo, and polvilho doce granulado (usually caseiro). I usually end up buying the polvilho doce granulado caseiro because it was the first kind I ever bought when trying to make it on my own and it had an easy to follow recipe on the back. What you use is up to you, but I will tell you that most people use polvilho doce and when you use this kind, you add less ingredients. The recipe I am going to give on here will be for polvilho doce granulado caseiro, so if you want to follow my recipe exactly, get that kind.
So enough of my ramblings. Here is the recipe.

What you will need:

  • medium sauce pan
  • large bowl
  • large spoon, preferably wooden
  • 6 cups of polvilho doce(granulado caseiro is what I'm using) or if not in Brazil, Manioc Starch or Tapioca Flour/Starch.
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3-5 eggs (depending on initial texture and your preference)
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • baking sheet
  • oil for coating hands

To make cheese bread:

1. Heat oil, milk, and salt in medium pan over medium heat (stir occasionally).

 Bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
2. Add polvilho doce/tapioca flour to large bowl. As soon as you remove the milk/oil/salt from the heat, add to the bowl of flour and mix well until totally blended into each other.

It may be coarse to clumpy:

Leave to sit until it is has cooled enough to touch it. (You will be sticking your hands into it in a minute)
3. Preheat oven to 180-200 Celsius (about 400 Fahrenheit)
4. Once the mix is cool enough to touch, you can add 3 eggs and your parmesan cheese.

 Start off mixing it into the mix with a large spoon, but once it is too hard to move the spoon around, you'll need to get in there with your hands and mix it well with your hands.

 It is going to stick to your hands and it is going to be messy. Don't think it's not right if it starts sticking to your hands, because this is how it should act. The final result needs to resemble mashed potatoes. It should not be too firm that it resembles raw bread or pastry dough, but it should not be so runny that you cannot form a ball with it.

5. If it not resembling what it should, add another egg, and/or splash in a little more milk and oil. If it seems too runny, add in a little extra polvilho/tapioca flour. Once it is too wet to be a firm dough, yet not too wet to pick up and form a clump with oiled hands; it's ready.
6. Get out your baking sheet.No need to coat or line your baking sheet. 
7. Coat hands well with oil first. Keep it handy as you will need to reapply often depending on how sticky your batch is. This should not be like rolling bread rolls. This should not feel anything like raw bread dough. Like I said, it should look and feel more like mashed potatoes. Sometimes, when I'm not trying to be pretty about it, I just take the mix out by spoonfuls and plop it onto the baking sheet. It stills finds a way to form a ball when it cooks!
8. Take out a small clump and try to see if you can roll it into a ball. If you can't it's ok, clump it as best you can together and place on baking sheet. Allow at least 1/4 to 1/2 inches between your cheese breads. They will rise but if they do touch one another they will easily come apart individually. Once you have what you want on your baking sheet, place in the oven on middle rack.
These, for example, did not want to form perfect balls so I just ended up plopping them onto a tray. But depending on how you made your mix, they may form perfect balls when you take them out of the bowl and roll them.

9. Let cook for about 20-30 minutes. You will smell them when they're ready. To me they smell like cheez-its when they're ready. They should start to puff up and most of the time they will crack open... this is normal. They should look a little golden and crispy on the outside when they're ready. I usually take one out and open it before I take them all out, just to make sure it's done in the middle.

10. Let them cool, but not too long, they're absolutely delicious when they're hot.
11. If there is remaining mix leftover, you can seal it up and keep it stored in the freezer until you want to make them again, then just let them thaw until pliable and throw however much you want into the oven.
13. Enjoy!

* You can also fill them with just about anything you like either before or after you bake them. A lot of people like to put their favorite cheese inside of the raw cheese breads. You need to make sure that whatever you are putting into the middle is totally covered by the dough. You can also stick a caramel candy or chocolate chips in the middle. Jelly is another really good one. Basically anything like I said. 

* After they come out of the oven, you can slather on butter, cheese spread, jelly, doce de leite, caramel, nutella, etc. It's all really delicious. It's very popular in Brazil for people to eat their cheese bread with doce de leite as a snack. SO GOOD!  You can even bring something different to a party and make finger sandwiches out of them..

Wow all this talk of cheese bread has made me hungry, I'm going to go grab a leftover from breakfast right now!


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