I spent four years of my childhood living in Rio de Janeiro. It was a magical time filled with school, friends, beaches, and a Judaism & love of Israel that was at the heartbeat of our school Colegio Bar-Ilan. And of course, the food - even though always kosher, the food was amazing, fresh, vibrant, and filled with textures and flavors unique to Brazil. One of my favorites was pão de queijo - Brazilian cheese bread. Served warm fresh from the oven, there is truly nothing like them. I had tried recreating them for years after we left Brazil, and I couldn’t get it right. I heard of a special flour that you could only purchase in Brazil, and my search continued until my husband and I moved to Tel Aviv in 1998.
In Tel Aviv, you can find Jews from around the globe, including a small Brazilian community. In a Brazilian shop I finally found the special flour, imported all the way from Brazil to Tel Aviv. All was good in the world: Every couple of months I would visit and stock up -- until, that is, they ran out! Dejected as I walked out of the shop, the owner said not to worry: When she runs out of the special flour, she just uses the generic version - tapioca flour! Who knew this whole time the flour was available in every health food store!
It took me a few more years to realize (and this was only after carefully reading labels on Pesach cakes) that tapioca flour is Kosher for Passover! And from that point forward, no Pesach preparations in our home are complete without trays of pão de queijo being served. Aside from being delicious, pão de queijo doesn’t use matzah meal, which for my family is imperative on the eve of Pesach, as they don’t eat chametz and at the same time don’t eat matzah.
So for all you skeptics, try it once, make your own pão de queijo, you won’t regret it! —Ilana Epstein
Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 200˚C (400˚F), lightly oil a 12 cup muffin tin.
In a large saucepan, bring the milk, salt, and butter to a boil while constantly stirring mixture. Once boiling remove the saucepan from the heat. Slowly add tapioca flour, stirring constantly until thoroughly mixed. Add the cheese and eggs to mixture. Mix until smooth.
Divide equally by filling the muffin tin. Bake until golden brown, between 15-20 minutes. Eat while hot.
Cooked puffs can be stored in the fridge as long as they’re kept covered and then warmed up on a low setting in a toaster oven.
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