Every now and then you come across some snack that's so delicious, so indescribably delicious that it sticks in your memory forever.
It might be the combination of time and place, experience and emotion. It might be you were in a particular mood or with particular people.
These are it for me. They're puffy and crisp on the outside, with a gooey stretchy cheesy center. It's like somehow you crafted puff pastry around mozzarella cheese that tasted like sharp cheddar. Best eaten hot, they're irresistible. They must be the ultimate "you can't eat just one." Sorry, Lays.
Brazil has a lot going for it for a middle schooler, at least it did in the early 1980s. Chief among the joys (other than school, friends, weekend-only-sports-teams, and the best musical theater department EVER), was the food. Black beans and rice at every meal. Palmitos (hearts of palm). Berries half the size of my hand. Milk sold in bags. Cafezinhos, tiny cups of coffee served everywhere with about 3 tablespoons of sugar in each cup. Guarana, the only soda I ever craved. The crowning glory, though? Pão de queijo. The first time I had one I think I stopped in my tracks.
I haven't had one since we left Brazil, in 1983. Actually, I left Brazil before the rest of my family, stepping into the wilds of boarding school for high school. In between the time they dropped me off at orientation at Hotchkiss and the time I flew home for Christmas break, "home" had moved from São Paolo, Brasil, to Caracas, Venezuela.
And poof went my access to pão de queijo. I thought it was gone forever.
Brazilian pão de queijo
makes a LOT - these freeze really well as the unbaked formed balls
The problem with halving this is the eggs.
4 cups milk
1 cup (scant) vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 POUNDS tapioca flour*
1 pound sharp cheese (there's a mixture of parmesan and cheddar in here)
1. Mix milk, oil, and salt together in a saucepan, then heat well. You need to get this to scalding point - where the foam is starting to climb the sides of the pan and if you let it go more, it'd foam over and make a terrible mess on the stovetop. If you don't get this super hot, the tapioca flour will stay liquid.
2. Put tapioca flour in a mixing bowl, preferably a stand mixer. This stuff is super powdery and will blow all over. Use care.
3. Add the HOT liquid all at once and start mixing, slow speed at first until there's no danger of dust explosion. Mix until the dough cleans the bowl. At this point you might want to divide the dough in half, so the mixer can accommodate the other ingredients.
4. Stretch it out to cool it a bit - it's cool enough to add in the eggs when you can touch it (If it's too hot it will cook the eggs!)
5. Add in the eggs and the cheese. Mix and mix and mix some more, until the eggs and cheese are incorporated.
6. Preheat the oven to 425.
7. Create small balls of dough. By far the easiest is the procedure shared here - make a cylinder and cut pieces off. Silicone tools are your friend!
8. Put on a parchment-lined baking sheet, or use the silicone pad, and bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and browned on the outside.
Make the balls out of any "extra" dough, then freeze them on a single layer until solid enough to tip into a freezer container. Pull them out and bake when wanted. No need to thaw before baking!
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