Like a siren, the pão de queijo’s scent announces its presence loudly throughout the house. Louder than a doorbell, a phone ringing or an alarm clock, the pão de queijo’s warnings cannot be ignored.
All tasks, like ironing, dusting, placing the last piece of a puzzle and even reading the final paragraph of a novel would be put aside to attend to the pão de queijo’s calling. It permeates the house; and on breezy days it announces to the neighbors a cheery gathering in the kitchen.
The family gatherings in the kitchen are assembled even before the pão de queijo leaves the oven, giving the baker the opportunity to brag about the new polvilho (yuca flour) she had found at the farmers’ market or how great a quality of the cheese she had used. Once the pão de queijo is served, any other dissertation is irrelevant.
The pão de queijo accompanies with great ability, the celebrated Brazilian black coffee (cafezinho). It also pairs well with hot chocolate and fruit juices, as well as beer and aperitifs.
The scrumptious little bread is welcomed at any time and by everyone, young and old. The cheese-bread was created before wheat was cultivated in Brazil. Out of all the recipes in which the wheat flour was replaced by yuca flour, the pão de queijo is said to be the most successful. The combination of the abundant yuca flour and the freshly made cheese replaced the European version and surpassed its merits.
The state of Minas Gerais claims to be its place of origin. The young population of the hilly state replaces the picture of the heart in the slogan
“I heart Minas Gerais” by a picture of the famous pão de queijo. And although the traditionalist, who always eats it plain, without embellishment abhors the irreverent new generation, the cheese-bread is served in a variety of ways: stuffed with tropical fruity chutneys, with a variety of savory pâté, or with my favorite hot spiced pulled-pork.
In the U.S. we use the industrialized yuca flour, that works very well for the pão de queijo. (if you find the artisanal variety, grab it) There are two kinds of yuca flour: doce (sweet) and azedo (sour). After all this history and so much squabble, Brazilian bakers decided to agree that you can use either one for pão de queijo recipes. If I have both on hand, I combine equal parts of both. The choice of cheese is very important – it should be medium-hard and freshly grated. If you choose a salty cheese, please reduce the salt in the recipe. Experiment with different cheeses and find your perfect pão de queijo in your own kitchen. It is fast and easy. Enjoy.
Pão de queijo
4 cups yuca flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup whole milk
2 cups grated medium-hard cheese
1. Place the yuca flour in a medium bowl. Set aside
2. In a small pot, boil the water, salt and oil. Pour it over the yuca flour and mix with a wooden spoon. Once the mixture is cool enough, use your hands to blend it into a coarse flour.
3. Add the eggs and continue to mix with your hands.
4. Add milk and cheese. Mix it until the dough is very sticky. If the dough is not sticky add some extra milk. It should be just firm enough to be shaped into two-inch balls by hands greased with canola oil.
5. Place on the baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 30 minutes in a 350-degree preheated oven, or until golden. Makes about 40.