Pão de queijo – brazilian cheeseballs

If I were to pick one thing from the Brazilian kitchen, this – pão de queijo – would be it. And for me to not choose something sweet or cake like, or involving any delicious exotic fruit, well, that just means it has to be something out of the ordinary. Whenever something is chosen before cake, to me, that’s a sign of quality. When I lived in Brazil, I quickly became aware of these cheeseballs. It’s sold in all kind of cafés, it’s an easy snack on the go and everyone makes it at home. They origin from the state of Minas Gerais, but can now be find throughout Brazil. Though, if you’re ever in Minas Gerais, you can’t really miss the fact that you’re in the pão de queijo state. When I was in Belo Horisonte, the capitol of the state, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. There was literally pão de quejio-shops, (yes!) on every corner! And some in between them. And here you didn’t buy 1 or 2 or 3 for a couple reais, oh no. You bought a bag filled with goodness. And with so many competitors, each shop had to be cheaper, or make a better offer. You could easily get 10 cheeseballs for 1 real, which is pretty close to nothing. Oh my. Happy days.

So naturally, back in Norway, the cravings began. I’d been acostumized to having pão de queijo whenever I felt like it, but it wasn’t all that easy now. The flour used for pão de queijo is farinha de mandioca, or cassava/manioc flour. And that my friend, turned out to be impossible to find. And trust me, I tried. After some time I had to face the facts – I would have to go to Brazil to get my beloved cheese balls.

But then, this easter, I was in Barcelona. Wandering around La Bouqueria which is a huge food market in Las Ramblas. And then, suddenly, between all the fruis, the sausages, cheeses and all the tapas bars, I was faced with a long lost friend. Farinha de mandioca! Cheese balls flour! And the exact same kind that I used in Brazil! I had found the Latino-booth…

And if that wasn’t good enough (Which it wasn’t. There’s only so many bags of flour you can drag across Europe) I just made a recent discovery. A newly opened shop, in my neighborhood, sells – you guessed it – farinha de mandioca. Not the same brand, but still the right kind I hope. I see a lot of cheesy weekends ahead. My life is complete.

This recipe I got from my host-mom in Brazil. Thanks Ica!
Cheese wise, anything goes I’ve been told, but I usually go for mainly parmesan cheese. That gives a nice salty flavour. And if I have some other cheese left, I put that in too. Philadelphia, Jarlsberg, Fetacheese – like I said, anything goes, but parmesan is a safe bet.

Pão de quejio
2 cups farinha de mandioca
1 cup of hot milk
2 cups of grated cheese
3 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt

Directions
Turn the oven to 200 C.
Heat up the milk, oil and salt.
Mix into the flour.
Grate the cheese and add it to the mixture together with the eggs. Add more milk if it needs more liquid. According to the recipe one should be able to form little balls, but don’t worry if the batter is to sticky. They will still taste delicous, just have a rougher look. I usually make mine about the size of a cupcake, but you can make minis or make them bigger, just adjust the baking time.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they have a golden surface. On the outside, a golden crispy crust, but one the inside, there’s sticky melted cheese. You can eat them as they are, but as anything else in this world, it get’s better with butter. Hot from the oven, sliced in half, with some butter spread on and an additional slice of cheese just to top it off! Holy cheese-o-rama, that stuff is good. So if you have this flour available, you owe it to yourself (and to me) to try this. Enjoy!

The Cookie? really?

I’m not dead! BUT – my computer died on me, and I’ve been busy reading for my exams, so my blogging activity has been pretty lame. But that’s all in the past, now, right?

Because today I have cookies.
Some cookies I have been pr-e-tty exited about to be honest.
For various reasons:

1: I finally got to crack open my giant chocolate bar I bought at the airport in barcelona.
1 kg of pure dark 70% chocolate. Yes, 1 kg! I couldn’t resist that thing, it was coming home with me. Oh, how I love big food. It kinda turns me on…

2: Browned butter. I’ve heard this stuff transforms ordinar cookies into something quite out of the ordinary – and that’s what my eternal cookie quest is all about! Extraordinary cookies!

3: Chilling the dough. I always skip chilling parts in recipes, and I’ve never ever had the willpower or patience to chill (and not eat) the dough. And not having cookies either. But I believe in this. All good food gets better with time – or not all, but a lot of food gets better if you give it time to develope the flavours.

I mean, how can this possibly fail?
I searched the internet widely before finally deciding on the recipe. But these three steps were mentioned in so many “best chocolate chip cookies”-recipes, there had to be some truth to it. Quality chocolate – check! Chilling the dough – Check! And browned butter – Check! I even caramelized and roasted the nuts. Jeez. Those cookies better be good I tell you!

It was a tough battle between recipes, it came down to three, but I finally chose this one from SugarPlum.

Yield: 50 cookies
(Do feel free to half the recipe – how can anyone have 50 cookies around? Not me! And I also replaced walnuts with hazelnuts. I love hazelnuts and chocolate. That’s me.)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

1 cup unsalted butter
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces coarsely chopped dark chocolate

Directions:
Preheat oven to 200 C/375 F.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir in 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Boil 1-2 minutes, whisking frequently, until golden brown; stir in walnuts until well coated. Place on a sheet pan, and bake for 5 minutes or until well toasted; cool.

Melt 1 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; continue to cook the butter, whisking frequently, until it starts to brown and foam, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour and baking soda; stir in 2 teaspoons salt until combined.

In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat 1/2 cup softened butter, brown sugar and 1 cup granulated sugar until well combined and grainy, about 1 minute; beat in browned butter for 1 additional minute. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined; stir in chocolate and walnuts with a wooden spoon until combined. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour. (You could speed up this process by placing the dough in the freezer for about 45 minutes.)

Drop 1/4 cup measures of dough onto cookie sheet, forming into large mounds, and flatten slightly. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown around edges. Cool 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks.

So….the result. The verdict. The bottom line. The reward for beeing able to let the dough chill in the fridge for several days. (Though some of it strangely may have found its way into my mouth.)
Well, actually I’m a little bit disappointed. Not because the cookies were bad or anything, I just didn’t really notice the big-O-difference. With the browned butter, chilled dough and all. Maybe I didn’t brown it thoroughly enough. Maybe I overchilled the dough? But I thought letting it rest for long was a good thing. Or maybe my expectations simply were too high. They tasted delicious either way. A real crunchy outer crust and a chewy center – packed with chunky pieces of dark quality chocolate. I mean, that’s never wrong. Not in my book. But I’m left with a feeling I did something wrong, or missed out on something. I just don’t know what. I guess I just have to work on it. Practise my browning butter skills. Bake another sheet of cookies for a shorter time. I can start that rightaway, cause I froze most of the dough, so I can have fresh cookies at any time. Ahh, Bree van De Kamp would be so proud. My idol. But still. So many people can’t be mistaking and raving about this cookie for nothing, right? Any experiences out there? I want to get this right! Better roll oup the sleeves again, I guess! This cookie buisness is rough.