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The very first time I had these little cheesy, puffy breads was at one of my local coffee shops, O Cafe (they make a mean cup of coffee, by the way — which should be a reminder that I have been meaning to do a Coffee Crawl in my neighborhood to write about).

I saw them coming out of the oven. They looked like cute little popovers. Of course, I immediately wanted to make them. (I wanted to eat them first, obvs.)

Pão de Queijo is Brazilian Cheese Bread, more akin to gougères than bread, in my opinion. The wonderful thing about these guys is that you don’t have to make a pate a choux, and while I found some pão recipes that started with a pate a choux base, my favorite involves a blender, mini muffin tins, and a toaster oven.

Real Pão de Queijo is more chewy than crunchy. I prefer mine a bit on the overcooked side (toast brown rather than light brown on the outside), with a hint of chew in the center.

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I have to say —I love the instant gratification of cooking. Even if you tinker around and try various versions of a recipe, we are talking hours here instead of days/weeks until you get what you want.

And guess what? Tinker I did.

My favorite basic recipe comes from Simply Recipes and is linked here. This recipe produces a really light, slightly cheesy puff. I love the recommendation to use queso fresco, or farm cheese, as well. You can use any sort of cheese, including that bit of parmesan that may be going rock hard in the refrigerator.

Here are my modifications (I really should change the name of this blog to Twisted and Modified!):

Twisted Not Quite Brazilian Pão de Queijo

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/3 cup milk, I use whatever is on hand and today I have 2% milk
  • Scant 3 cups (340 grams) tapioca flour — I always weigh when I’m baking, rather than use volume measures.
  • 1 cup (130 grams) crumbled blue cheese, I like gorgonzola.
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt – watch the salt and adjust with the saltiness of the cheese. I will salt heavily (~3tsp) if I am using farm cheese, but with blue cheese, am lighter.
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • generous grind of black pepper

Yield: ~6 batches in mini muffin tins. The batter is doubled vs. the original recipe. Batter can be stored refrigerated (the original recipe says up to a week, I’ve never stored this batter for that long), make sure it is blended/shaken before using again.

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  1. Preheat toaster oven to 400°F. (You can clearly do bigger batches in the oven.)
  2. Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth and well blended
  3. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until all puffy and browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes.

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They are perfect with a glass of champers. They are gluten free, although chock full of dairy.

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Enjoy!

How I should have spent this week was to take the dogs on long lazy walks every day, sleep 8 hours a night, and organize my life (read, yarn. I am still looking for a skein of yarn I would like to knit into a shawl.).

Of course, I bit off more than I can chew. I thought it would be a really good idea to take a 4-day, intensive cake decorating class.

The first two days were spent making icing and learning some basic piping techniques. And we piped, and piped and piped. Piping is not like knitting. If you don’t practice/pipe on a regular basis, you lose it. You can’t pick up piping bag, pop in a #104 petal tip and start piping buttercream roses to perfection.

I have piped a few of those in my day. But beyond a few flowers that I pipe on friend’s cakes and cupcakes here and there, I have not really picked up the piping bag in about 10 years…..oh wait. 18 years. (YIKES).

IMG_1397So when it came to piping roses, my first few were looking really cabbagy. Then, they started looking a bit more like flowers and then like cabbage roses.

Then finally, after about 10, my right hand found the right pressure to apply on the piping bag, and how to arc the tip just right against the base to create a petal in a shape that sort of resembled a rose petal.

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The teacher gave us great recipes for different kinds of buttercream for icing the cake, piping the border, and piping the rose. All about the type of fat that you use, and ratio of liquids to solids. What I loved about my teacher for the class was that taste was #1 for her. So, while it would have been 100% easier to pipe with a shortening based cream, her buttercream was…just that. Even the highest shortening ratio in her recipes were relatively low so the piping is delicious beyond all doubt.

We also spent time talking about food colors — both for icing and marzipan.

And we took a turn at making marzipan fruits. Mixing colors, using petal dust to finish off the fruit…talk about Play-doh for adults! Remember I said my teacher thought taste was #1? The marzipan is delicious. And she taught us to mix in cocoa powder to get depth in the browns so the brown marzipan? Off the charts. Here’s the assortment we made:

plate of marzipan

And when I came home, I took photos of some marzipan fruits next to their real life counterparts. Not bad for some almond paste, sugar, and food dye!

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IMG_8560The most fun I had was probably making the “chocolate plastic” (it’s basically chocolate and either glycerin or corn syrup) and learning to work with that. We made bows and streamers, leaves, and modeled a full rose!


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And of course, as this was a recreational class (…ok, for semi-serious, crazy people), our chef had baked cake for us to decorate and take home.

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I am having a bit of a knitting get together today, so we will be cutting into this cake today. I hope it is delicious!

If you knew me well, you would know that there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with this photo.

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I do NOT like to wrap presents. I have all kinds of excuses….”It’s environmentally incorrect”; “My presents are good enough that they don’t need to be wrapped”; “We’re all adults now, wrapping is for children”.

When it comes down to it, I’m just too lazy.

So.. you ask…why are all the presents wrapped and beribboned? It is a picture of the state of my mind. I am trying to hide the contents in pretty wrapping. Yes, it’s that bad. My mantra this year: “It’s the thought that counts.”

On another front — there IS something good. Jim Lahey, you’re my hero.

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I have one more day until the big Christmas Eve family dinner.

I have already decided that the bulk of my knitted presents will be given in its deconstructed form…partially done to intrigue the receiver, with an option for them to finish themselves. I suspect all but 2 people will be leaving their presents behind for me to finish for them.

Yes, very sad, I only finished two presents. Granted, one of them hasn’t even been cast on and my present is the intent to knit this specific object.

Once I was resigned to my avant garde presents, I was free to focus on the bigger problem at hand — our Christmas feast. Our dinner is seemingly simple. It is all about great ingredients, but almost all components are hand made. Which means I am usually running around doing the prep for the dinner for a couple of days preceding Christmas Eve.

Tomorrow is all about making the Vichyssoise and the pasta and shucking the oysters — leading up to it all the base components have to be made.

And what I consider my big present to my family — my Pate du Canard. A three day ordeal. At last that is done and being pressed. (That’s chicken stock in the back ready to go into the refrigerator, and 10 onions sliced and sauteed for the pissaladiere.)

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Off to mix the bread dough so it can proof overnight. Have you ever made Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread? It is incredibly easy and amazingly good — chewy and crusty, just as a bread should be.

Merry Christmas!

It appears that I was well on my way to catching a cold when I posted last, which explains why I seemed completely intrigued by liquids.

Armed with Purled’s chai recipe (folks, it is ridiculously good — the only thing I have done  to it is adding a stick of cinnamon for its warming properties), I have been a busy bee on the knitting front.

It also helps that it’s baseball playoff time, which means hours and hours of potential knitting time while supposedly socializing. I have one such afternoon coming up, and while my guests are armed with beer and hot wings, I will be content with my sweater in my lap.

See. Knitting is also my way of “dieting”. If my hands are busy, and I have gorgeous yarn running through my fingers, do I want wing sauce all over my face and hands? I can just have my share, wash my hands, and knit away as my 100 wing tub magically disappears.

Just in case I drink beer, the sweater I am working on is stockinette in the round. It’s going to be perfect (although I’ve been known to seriously mess up very simple knitting while knitting socially).

Just in time for Rhinebeck, fresh off my needles is Romy by ANKESTRICK. I made sure my sweater was fall-weather ready by knitting it out of Hedgehog Fibres Merino Aran (the old yarn — Beata has a new Merino Aran base out that is now superwash — I haven’t tried that yarn yet) in a great pumpkin-y orange called Rusty Nail. It variegates from yellow to brown, going through almost every shade of orange. It’s got a high neck to ward off the wind, and this is the other sweater which will require some Jennie the Potter buttons to complete.

This sweater almost knit itself. I was really intrigued by the contiguous shoulder method, so that took a bit of reading and ripping out (complete user error. This was the first time I knit an ANKESTRICK pattern and I was not 100% familiar with the set up. Once I “got” it, though, it went swimmingly — the pattern is fantastic), but once I saw what was going on, the knitting flew. The measurements in the pattern are perfectly clear, and this sweater, fitted properly at my shoulders feels like a garment custom made for me (which it was, of course, but fitting a sweater is not always easy). It may be because the sweater was knit at a relatively tight gauge and it is a “slim” fit, but it is feeling less bulky that I thought it may.

I love this sweater, and while it hasn’t been worn in public yet, I am hoping that Rhinebeck weather cooperates.

Eying any new sweater patterns?

 

And the farmstand had a beautiful head of broccoli.

I like broccoli any old way, but broccoli always reminds me of one of the best bowls of soup that I had in New Zealand several years ago.

I can’t remember where I was exactly — but it was raining, and cold. We walked into a small cafe with teeth chattering, and I ordered a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup.

The thing I remember the most about it is that the bowl in front of me wasn’t a bowl of green bits swimming in cheese colored liquid, but it was a steaming bowl of beautiful green soup, with a mound of grated cheddar in the middle which was melting into the soup as it was placed in front of me.

Since then, this is my favorite way of eating broccoli soup. The soup itself is nothing special — just sauteed onions, celery and broccoli stem, boiled in home made chicken stock and some wine, and the heads added at the last minute and cooked until just soft — and then blended.

I eat it with lots of cracked black pepper, and of course, the mound of grated sharp cheddar cheese.

YUM! Totally warms you up from the inside.

Speaking of warming up from the inside…The other thing that I like to make is chai. I use this version from Elana’s Pantry with extra ginger, but I cannot forget the chai that Nancy/Purled made for me (every morning!!). Ever since I read her last blog post about knitting in bed with the mug of chai, I have been thinking about it! Maybe the chai master will reveal a bit about her secret concoction……

Chai…..mmmmmm

P.S. Yes, I consumed both the soup and chai out of Jennie The Potter ware. Wouldn’t have it any other way.