My friend Elise has a fun feature on her blog called “Recipe Fridays.” These recipes range from simple to more complex, but they generally sound both tasty and healthy. So naturally, my attention was piqued by THIS post.
Cheese bread, also known as pao de quejio, is a popular Brazilian snack food. Best served hot, these little guys are definitely tasty, though perhaps not as healthful as the roasted fennel posted a few weeks later. Still, they’re gluten-free, so good for growing number of people I know who have celiac disease.
Most interesting to me, however, was that Elise had used a boxed mix. Since I’m always looking for ways to bring food back to basics, I wondered: could the cheese bread be made from scratch? Or was it full of esoteric ingredients and techniques best left in Brazil?
As it turned out, the most exotic ingredient in pao de quejio is tapioca flour, which gives it that distinctive, gummy, mochi-like texture and, incidentally, is why the little dough-balls are gluten-free. Tapioca flour comes from the root of the cassava plant, rather than than one of the cereal grains that are usually gluten producers. Since it doesn’t make gluten, it’s unsuitable for making leavened bread (see this post for more info) but it’s a great thickening agent and will certainly bind together well enough for little rolls like these.
It turned out to be fairly easy to buy tapioca flour at Market Basket – thanks to Bob and his Red Mill. My guess is that with things like celiac disease and allergies on the rise supermarkets are eager to supply the “alternative” flours. I used this recipe to make my cheese buns, but I halved it because 4 1/4 cups of flour seemed like it was going to make a LOT of buns. In fact, even though the recipe claims to make 15 buns, I got nearly that with half the ingredients. Either mine were piddly or this lady is a bit off on her count.
I decided to use regular ol’ Farmer’s Cheese and a bit of cheddar for the cheese, since I didn’t feel like going over to the Brazilian market on Somerville Avenue. Forgive my lack of authenticity, but Dave’s Fresh Pasta is much closer to my house, so farmer’s cheese was it!
The recipe couldn’t have been simpler to follow, although when I threw in the tapioca flour the dough that formed was distressingly stiff and sticky. Fortunately the addition of the eggs made it more malleable. It still looked like something from a horror movie, but I could work with it:
Keep in mind that in the middle of this process you do NOT want to have to touch anything except the dough. Much hand-cleaning ensued.
The house was also filled with the aroma of melting, caramelizing cheese, a smell that competes only with frying garlic for savory delight.
After being out of the oven for an hour my little golden buns deflated, sadly. They were still delicious the next day, however, with a judicious application of the toaster oven.
Overall I quite enjoyed these. Once one gets over the fact that the so-called bread is sticky and chewy inside they’re a treat. I hope to eventually do a comparison to the boxed brand to see if there’s a difference, but until then, I’ll happily snack on these!