Happy New Year, everybody!
The new year is not even a day old, and I’ve been busy doing exactly nothing. It’s been glorious!
But now, the late afternoon has crawled along, it’s getting dark, and I thought it would be great to share the first post of this year: Cuñapé, also known as Pao de Queijo or Bolivian (or Brazilian) Cheese Balls. It’s a cheese puff (very fun and stretchy), very popular all around South America, made from sour cassava flour (also known as manioc) and cheese. Cuñapé are aturally gluten-free and one of my favorite Bolivian snacks ever (did I already mention how I used to be drawn to gluten-free foods all of my life, even though I didn’t know I had celiac disease and didn’t even know that such a thing existed?).
For cuñapé, you don’t use any cheese, but Queso Fresco (literally translates into “fresh cheese”), which is hard to come by here in Europe. I recently got lucky though and stopped by Emporio VidaBio, a small Brasilian café, in Frankfurt the other day. They had lots of Latin American food and products available in their café, including Pao de Queijo, so I asked if the cheese in their little refrigerator was Queso Fresco. It went by the name of Queso Anejo, but the owner assured me that this is the cheese used for what I had in mind, so I bought a piece. By the way, Emporio VidaBio seems to purchase their cheese from Kaese-Suedamerika.de, so if you are in Landshut, check this place – which is run by a Nicaraguan! – out:
Anyway, after purchasing the cheese, I returned to Cologne and totally forgot about the cheese, and then decided that I need to use it fairly quickly or otherwise it would spoil. So off I went to make cuñapé according to a family recipe (my cousin’s wife generously provided hers, gracias, Isabel!). And wow, now I’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of these little cheese puffs of air all by myself. They are fluffy, light and oh-so-delicious! I can hardly contain myself and I want to eat the remainder of them, like right now. New year’s resolutions, you say? Can you explain what that means? I don’t understand! (Yeah, I should be out, taking a walk, working off all those cheese puffs, but I’m going back to doing nothing after I publish this post, what are you going to do about it? :P) PS: Can’t find Queso Fresco where you are at? No worries! You can make these with a mixture of parmesan and mozzarella (the firm kind) and you will be very close in terms of texture, the only disadvantage being that you absolutely have to eat these babies while they are still hot and the cheese is still soft. You can later just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to make the cheese soft and stretchy again.
1 cup milk (I used low-fat, because this is what we have in our fridge)
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups sour cassava flour (or tapioca flour, if you can’t find it)
2 cups Queso Fresco (shredded, I used the attachment of my hand-held blender for this task)
Heat your oven to 190°C. Line two baking tins with baking parchment.
Place the milk into a pot, add the vegetable oil and the dash of salt. Heat the milk until it starts boiling. Turn off the heat, and add the sour cassava flour, stirring vigorously. The result will be a very stretchy, very oily mass. Ensure that no lumps are left, if you can. (I used my whisk at first but then switched to my handheld mixer later on). Allow the batter to cool down (e.g. by letting sit by an open window). Then add the eggs, one by one. Your batter my turn a bit lumpy at this point, and using a handheld mixer will definitely be an advantage. Then add the cheese, and incorporate well into the batter. Your batter will probably never be lump-free, but this is ok as long as you have managed to dissolve all lumps containing flour.
Then, with the help of a teaspoon, begin distributing the batter on the baking parchment, making little lumps of about four centimeters diameter. Place into your pre-heated oven and bake for about fifteen to twenty minutes, until golden brown. Remove baking parchment from oven and serve cuñapé immediately along with a lovely steaming cup of coffee or tea.