Thursday, May 16, 2013

Christ is Risen, Lent is Over, and I Give You Pão de Queijo

Christ is risen, indeed He is risen!

Lent is over and it is now Paschaltide in the Orthodox Church. It is a time of celebration, a commemoration of the wild joy of the discovery of the risen Lord and what it meant for the early Church.

The husband and I completed our conversion into the Eastern Orthodox Church at Pascha, ending our time as inquirers and catechumens and fully joining the Church as members. Finding a community in this town has been more important to me than I realized. I struggled with hating Virginia when I first moved here. Finding a place where I feel comfortable and a Church that challenges me has been water to a thirsty and embittered soul. Paschaltide has brought me into a sense of community and peace about my circumstances.

Paschaltide has also been the return of meat, the beginning of my weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) pickups, and a lot of digging in the dirt to plant a little herb garden. It is spring time, and Christ has trampled down death by death!

I have returned to my old, intentional meal planning and cooking habits. I am loving the weekly delivery of vegetables, berries and eggs that I get from Lynchburg Grows CSA. Through them, I also have access to pastured hens, and the husband and I are getting an 1/8th of a grass-fed beef shortly from Mountain Run Farm. I have found a source for local, low pasteurized non-homogenous milk and I feel in control of my kitchen again.

I'm not sure why I've never shared this recipe before. I feel a little selfish for not posting it earlier, but this is a period of celebration and I can't keep this secret back any longer! My Pascha present to all of you is:

Pão de Queijo
Brazilian Cheese Bread

Bom dia!
 I am not Brazilian, but I was taught how to make these by a friend from Brasilia. She'd been in the States for a few weeks and was feeling a little homesick for something that wasn't traditional Standard American Diet.

Who can blame her?

We ended up getting her mother on Skype and she translated the recipe for us. 

That's how my obsession with these little monsters began.

Pão de Queijo are gluten free because they're made with tapioca flour. I've always used Bob's Red Mill, which I've found at my local Kroger without any trouble. It's about $3-$4 a pound, and you'll use about half a pound for this recipe. The texture is chewy, not airy, but I've found them to be very versatile.

I'll leave my disclaimer up front: These are gluten free, but not dairy free. I've often wanted to experiment to see what they'd be like without cheese, but they're so incredibly good as-is that I can't bring myself to take out the parmesan.
Pão de Queijo

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt

2 cups tapioca flour

3/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs

 Melt butter in a medium saucepan and add the water, milk, salt and minced garlic. I like to whisk everything together so I feel like nothing is scorching, but you're basically going to leave it alone until it boils.

As soon as your ingredients come to a boil, remove from the heat and dump in your 2 cups of tapioca flour. Stir until everything is well blended. It takes a little arm power.


 Now let it be. Your flour needs to rest for about fifteen minutes. Go ahead and preheat the oven at this point to 375 F.

Once you and the dough have rested, add the eggs and the parmesan.The result is going to be a lumpy, yellowish glob. If your dough seems super wet and sticky (you can't pick it up and make it into a shap without losing half the dough all over your hands) then add more tapioca flour and mix it in well. Your dough is going to be sticky, it's going to end up all over you, but you need it to be manageable.

Don't be afraid to experiment at this point. After you taste these, you're going to be making them again. Even if they're a little too sticky, they're going to cook. If you're afraid you're adding too much flour, just go ahead and make them into balls and cook them. The worst case scenario is they take longer to bake and the texture isn't as bread like.

I promise I'm appetizing.

You can either form the pão into little perfect balls at this point, or drop them on the sheet fairly unformed. I used the drop method. They look like a little herd of dinosaurs to me.


I usually bake for 20-25 minutes. You'll want the tips to be browned. The texture of the bread is very chewy and moist, so you can overcook and the world won't end. These little guys are incredibly savory and are best right out of the oven with butter on them.

I actually formed my pão into buns this week and used them on hamburgers. It was delicious, although the crust of the bread is tougher. They are wonderful compliments to soup or as appetizers before dinner. They never last long in our house, and I'm sure they won't last long in yours, either!

A blessed Paschaltide to you all!