I was on my way to work this morning when I first saw them.
There on the pavement were beautiful auburn dried maple leaves, lying there as nonchalantly and regally as if they’d always been there – as if I had been slow to notice them, as if I were the one to be gaped at, not them.
Their appearance took me completely by surprise.
And while I know consciously that summer is ending and that the days have noticeably become much cooler – sometimes requiring more than just a light jacket and a thin scarf – it still shocked me into accepting the fact that the seasons are changing once again.
I’ve always loved Autumn, for her reds and auburns, for her cool breezes and pretty leaf-lined avenues.
But somehow, perhaps because I’d only gotten home from vacations in Brazil a week a go – the difference between Brazil’s always hot and humid climate and its tropical beaches and Buenos Aires’ sudden drop in temperature just seems too stark too take in all at once.
I feel myself holding on tightly to Summer, this time begging it to please stay a little longer.
The swaying coconut trees of Brazil’s endlessly stretching beaches; the views of the Atlantic Ocean and the perpetual salty sea breeze are still fresh in my mind. I’m still in vacation mood and summer, whose glaring sunshine and sometimes unbearably hot temperatures, is what feels like a holiday.
And so, in my attempt to cling on a little more to the last days of Summer, in my efforts to take me back to the beach, wishing I could walk barefeet with the sand between my toes once more – I’m taking all of us momentarily to Brazil, through introducing you to a classic snack that Brazilians like to have for breakfast or tea.
Pão de Queijo literally means “cheese bread”.
However, the difference it has from normal bread is that instead of being made with wheat flour, it is usually made with tapioca flour (also known as “cassava”), with the inside being typically chewy and moist, unlike the common bread’s drier inside texture.
When reading up on these cheese buns, I was amazed to realize that the buns require no leavening agent of any kind.
This is because the tapioca starch is a very powerful starch, and small pockets of air within the dough expand during baking, and are contained by the elasticity of the starch. How cool is that?
And, because of the strong flavor of Parmesan cheese used, it’s also possible to eat these cheese buns by themselves, without requiring any spread to enhance its flavor. You can eat it with coffee or tea, anyway you wish.
And the best part of all? Eating these cheese buns make me feel like I’m back in Brazil, having a beach vacation all over again.
GRAIN-FREE BRAZILIAN CHEESE BUNS (PAO DE QUEIJO)
(Makes 8 large cheese buns or 16 small cheese buns)
Barely adapted from: Andrea Drugay
1) 1 ½ cups of tapioca flour (also known as “cassava” in Brazil) + a little more if batter is too liquid
2) ½ teaspoon of salt
3) 1/3 cup olive oil (I prefer the non-extra virgin type so the taste is less strong)
4) 1/3 cup whole milk
5) 1/3 cup water
6) heaping 1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
7) 2 small eggs (or 1 large egg)
1) Preheat oven to 350F (180 deg cel).
2) Boil the milk, water, and oil in a saucepan for about 5 minutes.
3) Mix tapioca flour and salt in a medium-size heat-proof bowl.
4) Gently pour the milk-water-oil liquid over the flour a little at a time, mixing with a spoon, until you get a dough that is neither too wet nor too dry. Let it cool for a few minutes.
5) Stir in one egg, then the other (if mixture is too dry), and finally the cheese.
6) With oil-moistened hands, roll the dough into small or medium-sized balls and place on an oiled cookie sheet. Make sure each ball is at least two-finger width apart from the next.
7) Bake for 40-45 minutes (or until the inside is no longer extremely humid).
8) Let cool slightly before eating.
Note: when the cheese buns were first baked, the inside was very moist, but after a few hours of sitting on a plate uncovered, the texture was slightly drier, and I liked it better.
P.S. If you’re wondering why I’m trying to eliminate wheat from my life, I strongly recommend Wheat Belly – a book that will empower you and make you determined to get rid of wheat and it’s terrible health effects!