Christmas is all about family to me. And when I say family I am including aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, in laws, even actual boyfriends or girlfriends that would show up in my grandma’s house.
I don’t get the chance to spend every single Christmas Eve like that anymore but every year all these people, something between 60 and 80 people (I guess they don’t count it anymore) get together to celebrate and specially, to meet each other. And we eat…… the menu doesn’t change a lot, traditional roasted pork, “farofa”, “tutu”, “salpicão”, “pavê” are always there.
As you may be wondering, with this much people there is no way we can get a formal dinner. We just find a spot to seat and eat, in our own pace, a piece of this, a piece of that, while trying to catch up with the ones we didn’t see for a while.
And again, with this much people, you just can’t get to talk with every single person in one single night. That is what the following days are for, to meet everybody again, to spend more time with our favorite ones and gossip about the ones we…. well, you know! What cheese bread has to do with it? Oh, cheese bread is the most important part of the backstage here; it’s the joint, the collator, the assembler, responsible to gather and redistribute the groups in an incessant motion.
Every time a batch of bread comes out of the oven, people resurge from wherever there were in the house and populate the kitchen again. Basically we can say with a bowl of cheese bread the feast is never over.
If you had never heard about Brazilian cheese bread before, it is a kind of chewy popover, similar to gougére that happened to be gluten free (since it is made with yucca/tapioca flour). It comes from the state of Minas Gerais, located in southeast of Brazil and known for its dairy products and country kitchen style food (personalities, politicians and important historic facts all come after that). And cheese bread is definitely one of the stars of this kitchen, if not the biggest one.
I have been hesitating to share this recipe because I had a hard time trying to find the best flour. I have tried Indian ones, Mexican ones, but nothing compares to the Brazilian when the subject is cheese bread. But a couple weeks ago I realized what I need in fact was to try a different recipe. I grabbed my Aunt Joana’s recipe, which is much more moist than mine, and gave it a try using a brand of tapioca flour sold at Whole Foods. All I can say is my days of abstinence are over!!!!
So, Brazilian cheese breads anyone?
1. Preheat oven to 380°F. Grease a mini-muffin tin or use nonstick to save time. Put the first four ingredients into a blender and mix for about a minute.
2. Add tapioca flour and pulse until smooth, scrapping down the sides of the blender with a spatula. The flour tends to get stuck. Add grated parmesan cheese and pulse a few more times to get an homogeneous dough. It’s going to be very similar to a pancake batter but thinner.
3. Fill each mini-muffin cup 2/3 full of batter.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffy and just lightly browned.
Eat while warm. Makes about 3 dozen of cheese breads.
Two tips here:
* Experiment with other hard cheeses such as Asiago or Cotija.
** Make the batter and keep it well covered (with plastic film touching the batter) up to two days in the fridge.