Latin Twist: Brazilian Cheese Puffs



Anyone who has been to my house for a soirée knows that there’s one staple (aside from brownies!) that’s consistently part of my repertoire: Brazilian Cheese Puffs.

This all started many years ago. My daughter and I were on trip to Brazil. I was on tour for my writing textbooks (my other life’s work!), and Sofia was my travel partner. During that trip, when she was about 12 (so hmmmmm….almost 10 years ago!), we spent three weeks together there — during which we visited the state of Minas Gerais,  and were treated — thanks to our Cambridge

University Press hosts—to a wide array of delicious Brazilian dishes. As with many of those we sampled, it was love at first bite…

A few years later, we returned (this time with my son and husband in tow!), and had more chances to not only enjoy Brazil, but also pão de queijo, or “cheese bread.” It was then that I decided they were not only something I had to serve at home, but also a must-include in my book of cocktails, appetizers, Mambo Mixers.

Since then, I’ve had many Brazilian ESL students who have helped me improve and adapt my recipe! Here I am sharing one that I recently taught in a cooking class; it’s just slightly different from the original. Oh — and for the ingredients — the place to go is Gramatan Avenue in Mount Vernon! Not a block away from Westchester Community College’s Extension Center there (which is located at 175 Gramatan), is a small market that sells the flour you need to make these babies! (And you can find other treats I like to “play with” and share with guests on my blog: In the Kitchen with Arlen!)

Recipe after the jump!

Brazilian Cheese Puffs

Adapted from Mambo Mixers,© 2005,   Arlen Gargagliano

Makes about 6 dozen small cheese puffs  

1/2 cup canola oil

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup milk

1 3/4 cups “sweet” tapioca starch or manioc flour (available in large grocery stores and Latin markets) in Portuguese: polvilho doce

1/4 cup “sour” tapioca starch, in Portuguese: polvilho azedo (This I’ve only found in Brazilian markets.)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 1/2 cups freshly grated Sardo (Argentine parmesan), your favorite parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, water, and milk and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, pour the starch into a large bowl. When the liquid has boiled, add it to the starch and mix well. Let it rest for about 15 minutes. Then stir in the eggs and the cheese.

Form into medium size balls, about the circumference of a half dollar. (At this point you can refrigerate them up to three days in advance.) Just before your guests arrive, place them an inch apart on parchment paper covered sheet pans. Bake in the top rack of the oven, until they start to brown (about 15 to 20 minutes). Serve immediately. Keep remaining (if you have any left!) cheese puffs in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat, wrapped in a paper towel, for about 15 seconds in the microwave.



About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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