Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Primordial Pão de Queijo

I laid off the dairy the past few days, and that was probably wise considering this dish was on the menu for tonight. Pão de queijo are Brazilian cheese bread bites that are traditionally made with a hard cheese and tapioca flour. They are crispy on the outside and ooey, gooey on the inside. When I was researching different recipes, some people who weren't familiar with the texture claimed the insides were rubbery. If you get this feedback, just lament with them that they don't understand good food and celebrate that there will definitely be more awesome little bites of deliciousness for you! At the same time, you may only want to make these if you have company coming over. Wait? What? Yes, I know. They are so, so, so good—which is exactly the problem. I had trouble not devouring the whole plate in one sitting! But there you go. I should note that I have combined several different recipes and adapted a few ingredients to make this a little more paleo/primal friendly. This isn't necessarily a traditional recipe, but I did my utmost to keep the traditional texture, and in that attempt, I think I was successful. Either way, they are very good. And I could even see adding more garlic and turning this into garlic cheese balls and serving with a healthy marinara sauce for a nice twist!

Pão de Queijo
½ cup butter
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup half & half
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups tapioca flour
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup hard cheese of choice*, grated or very finely shredded
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine butter, water, half & half, and salt in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Allow butter to melt, stirring occasionally. As soon as ingredients come to a boil, immediately remove from heat. Do not allow cream to curdle. Add tapioca flour and garlic and mix until smooth. Set aside away from heat source to rest for 15 minutes until somewhat cooled. If the mixture is still too warm, remove from hot pan to cool to avoid cooking eggs when they are added. Once mixture is cooled enough, added cheese and eggs and mix thoroughly. The mixture will look a little rough in texture from the cheese particles but should still cling together. Drop in rounded tablespoons onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. No need to grease. Cook for approximately 20 minutes in the oven in the upper half but not too close to the heat source. You want the tops to lightly brown and crisp on the outside.

*I used roughly ½ cup manchego cheese (this is a sheep's milk cheese that has been aged at least 6 months or longer and is very hard) and ½ cup reserved aged cheddar (this cheddar had been aged 2 years and was much harder than your traditional cheddar). This cheese combo turned out great and I can definitely recommend it. If you can't find manchego or the reserved cheddar, you can substitute for other hard cheeses like romano, parmesan, aged cheddar, aged gouda, piave, grana padano, or sbrinz. I have seen other pão de queijo recipes that used soft cheeses like mozzarella, but I don't know how well they hold up or if they adjusted other ingredients. I haven't tried a soft cheese so I can't make any recommendations. Paleo/primal/ancestral health diets recommend hard cheeses, so I try to stick with those.