Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pão de Queijo

Also known as Brazilian Cheese Rolls. Also known as the most delicious balls of cheesy yumness you will ever eat.
My mom comes from Minas Gerais in Brazil, and if you ever drop by someone's house for a visit, you won't leave without being served warm pão de queijo. These are little puffs made of cheese and manioc (yucca) flour, and they are chewy and delicious! This is one of those dishes where everyone's grandma has their own special way of making them, and this is my grandma's recipe. It's a pretty typical one, and easy to make, so my mom and I decided to make it yesterday and teach you all how to do it too!
This recipe is soo much easier to make with two people, because you are going to stick your hands in the dough and make a mess (and who wants to do something that is that much fun by themselves??) Here we go...

You start with a big bowl. Our flat wooden one is actually special for making these, but any large bowl will do.

Here is the Brazilian yucca flour we use. This is hard to find outside of Brazilian supermarkets, but I've been told that you can substitute tapioca starch just fine. You mix 5 cups of this...

...with just under a tablespoon of salt... the big bowl. Using your hands, make a large well in the center.

Now take a cup of water and a cup of oil. We use vegetable oil, but soy or canola works fine too.

Heat the liquids in a small saucepan until boiling.

Here's where it gets a little tricky. You want to pour about half of the oil in to the well...

... and mix it in using your hands. CAREFUL, the oil is BOILING. You can start the mixing with a wooden spoon if it's just too hot to handle, but try to do as much as possible with your hands. Then mix in the second half of the oil, also using your hands as much as possible. You want to incorporate all of the oil and really kneed the dough - this is what gives the rolls their great texture.

After kneading, the dough should have this texture. It is moist but still grainy.

Then you're going to need 5 eggs. Mix these in one at a time, still using just your hands.

The dough will look like this after all the eggs are added.

Then it's time for the cheese. Usually a special Brazilian cheese is used, but we decided to try using Pecorino Romano, because it's the closest to the one traditionally used. It ended up working out great.

Shred about 5 cups (loosely packed) of it. I think if anything has 5 cups of cheese, you know it's going to be good...

Mix it in with your hands!

Now it's time for the final step. You need 1 1/2 cups of cold milk (I know this only shows one cup, we added more to it later).

Mix it in gradually, still using your hands. Be warned, this dough is EXTREMELY sticky (this is where doing it with someone else comes in handy - one person pours while the other mixes).

It should look like this after all the milk is mixed in. Now it's time for rolling!

You want to oil your hands to keep the dough from sticking to them, and make small even balls. We used a small cookie scoop (1.5 tbsp) to measure it out. This recipe will make about 75, and they freeze really well. We like to flash-freeze the rolled balls (freeze them on a baking sheet and then put them in bags) so we can defrost them whenever we want, but feel free to bake them like this too (but spread them out more than we did - they are close together just for the flash-freezing).
Warm up the oven to 350 F...

...and stick them in there for 30 minutes, or until just starting to brown (the time is about the same for the frozen or room temperature ones). Smelling good...

Yum! They are best eaten when still warm.

This is what they look like in the middle. Don't worry, they are fully cooked - they are supposed to be moist and chewy like this.

The best part of this for my mom is, these are naturally gluten-free!
These are great on their own, or with a cup of coffee, but there are a few things you can do with them too. Brazilians like to make little ham sandwiches. Here at home we like sandwiching them with something sweet - dulce de leche or jam is great. We had some with fig jam, which was delicious.
Please please please go try these if you like anything cheesy... or chewy... or really if you want to try something new that is super delicious! Let me know how it goes :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dorie's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

Just a quick post today! I made these cookies last month when my grandma wasn't feeling well, because we were sending her a care package. This is a quick and easy recipe, and the dough is fairly easy to roll out once you get the hang of it. I haven't made that many cut-out cookies, so I wasn't sure how much flour I needed, and it turns out you need quite a lot. But I was still able to get lots of cookies out of the batch, and they were delicious! I sent some to my grandma, and she loved them, and I also took some with us to Brazil when we went to visit my mom's family. They were eaten up fast! I want to try these again at Christmas and decorate them with royal icing. Yummy... Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dorie's Summer Fruit Galette

Back in March, my mom had some general pain, and couldn't find the source of it. She had had tests for lots of different diseases, all of which had come back negative. After lots of tests, she discovered that she has Celiac disease, which means she can't eat anything containing gluten (wheat, barley, or rye). This really isn't all that difficult to deal with, especially when cooking at home, but the problem is cross-contamination. It turns out that in restaurants, everything has flour! Because of the disease, if her food even touches flour, it is "contaminated" and she can't eat it.
My mom loves sweets, and there are places that make gluten-free desserts, but they are often not that great, and you risk cross-contamination. I had been reading Celiac Teen, another teen food blog I find really interesting, written by Lauren, who is 18, about her dealing with Celiac disease. I saw that it was possible to make something really delicious without any gluten, and not crumbly and bland like the store-bought gluten-free desserts often are. I did a little research and decided to give it a try.
I decided that I wanted to make Dorie's Summer Fruit Galette, because it wasn't a cake or cookies, where the texture is so important, but the only gluten-containing part of it is the crust. Since then, I've used the recipes I always use with certain substitutions, but since it was my first time baking without gluten, I went on to King Arthur flour's website and found this recipe for pie crust. I bought their gluten-free flour mix (I don't trust myself to mix the flours myself yet), and the crust came together easily. I couldn't find "instant clearjel", so I didn't use it. The one difference I noticed in making the crust was how difficult it was to roll out - it was crumbly and dry, making it really hard to shape in to a pretty galette...

Oh, I know it's hideous. But it was so good. I used nectarines as the summer fruit, and their tartness went really well with the sweetness of the custard.
The crust? It was great. I honestly couldn't tell the difference from a regular "gluten-ous" crust, and neither could my happy mommy. So if you know anyone with Celiac disease, or have it yourself, don't be afraid of baking. Just do some research, try out some recipes, and be sure to keep the kitchen free of contamination (the one thing that can be annoying, especially when you do bake with flour as well).
We all loved this, and I'm not afraid to try baking without gluten anymore. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

4th of July Cake!

I'M BAAAACK! So sorry I haven't posted in so long, but I'm finally starting to get used to my new school and I have some time to start posting again. This is a cake that I made for the 4th of July. The original idea comes from Elissa over at 17 and Baking, which is one of the food blogs I love and look at all the time for inspiration. I saw this cake there and then all over on various blogs, and was looking for a dessert for the 4th, so I figured I'd give it a try.
I had quite a rough time making this! I made a simple yellow cake batter (supposed to be for 2 9" layers) and split it into 3, dying one part red and one blue. I baked up the 3 layers, let them cool, made a batch of frosting, and started cutting. It's actually pretty easy to assemble, but it was difficult for me because my layers came out quite crumbly. First the red and white layers are cut in half. One red half is stacked on one white half, and those two are set aside. Then comes the tricky part - the other red and white layer halves are stacked on top of the blue layer, and a circle in the center (about 5" in diameter) is cut out. Then the blue outer circle is stacked on the first red and white layers, and the centers of the second red and white layers are put inside of that. Am I making any sense at all??? Elissa explains it much better in this post.
The point is, it was super crumbly and tough to assemble, but in the end it tasted great and I was happy with how it came out. In case you were wondering, I used this recipe (from Allrecipes), which is my favorite yellow cake recipe. The only change I make to it is to use 4 whole eggs instead of 8 yolks. I love it and it comes out moist and flavorful every time.
This is a great idea for a 4th of July dessert (or any patriotic holiday you can come up with), and fun to make. Hey, why not make it for Columbus Day next week?