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The Memories Inside a Cheesy Bun

Passport & Plate - Pão de Queijo

Brazil | Saturday, 7 March 2015 | 5 photos

1 cup milk (whole is best)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups tapioca flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups of fresh, finely grated parmesan
1/2 cup of fresh, finely grated sharp cheddar


How to prepare this recipe
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF
2. Combine oil, milk and salt in a large pot over medium heat.
3. Once your liquids are boiling, turn heat to low and add in your tapioca flour. Mix with a sturdy wooden spoon until you have a well-combined dough. Be forewarned, mixing this dough takes a little bit of patience and a lot of elbow grease.
4. Once your dough is formed, remove from heat and allow it to cool until you can comfortably touch it for several seconds. In the meantime, grate your cheese.
5. Once the dough is cooled, add in eggs one at a time and mix.
6. Once eggs are integrated, add in cheese and continue to knead/mix until well combined.
7. Roll small chunks of dough into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have around two-dozen buns.
8. Place tray in oven and immediately turn heat to 350º F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the buns turn a light golden brown. Serve your pão de queijo fresh from the oven.


The story behind this recipe
The first meal we ate together after 5 months of being apart was breakfast. We left his air-conditioned house and ventured out to his pot hole ridden street holding each other’s hands, already sticky from the humidity. He guided my jet-lag ridden feet across a busy avenue and into a red plastic chair outside his local bakery, while he went inside to order.

“You’re going to try all of the best Brazilian snacks today,” he called to me, eager to play host. As I let the din of Portuguese chatter settle in my ears, I felt the urge to shake myself awake. Was I actually in Brazil? Was I actually with him?

It was the last question that I pondered the most. 5 months earlier we had hugged goodbye at the airport of a foreign city that we both temporarily called home, and I imagined that our choked words were the last we would ever say to each other in person. Yet there I was, sweating in the Brazilian heat with my Brazilian boyfriend a meter away. Technology had sustained us in a blur of time differences and plane rides, and we could finally hold each other's sticky hands again.

The smell of coffee jolted me from my thoughts as a tray laden with plates appeared in front of me.

"Ok. First we have café and pão de queijo. You're going to really love that one," he said as he placed a round, golden bun in my hand. I slowly broke it in half, enjoying the sound of the crunchy crust and the look of the glutinous, stretchy center.

“What do you think?” he asked. I closed my eyes and took my first bite. Maybe it was my jet lagged brain or maybe it was the hot sun, but although I had never tried pão de queijo before, I was filled with intense nostalgia as soon as the chewy texture and cheesy flavor hit my tongue. When I opened my eyes to see his sweet, inquisitive face staring back at me, I understood.

“This,” I said with my mouth still full, “Is incredible.” I kissed him on the cheek, placed his sticky hand over mine, and we finished the remainder of our first meal.

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