Friday, February 28, 2014

Gluten-Free Cheesy Bread. Yep.

Brace yourselves! The post you have all been waiting for!

CHIPÁ!

What is chipá?  I call it cheesy bread.  

According to Wikipedia via Google: "Cheese buns, cheese breads, pão de queijo or chipá are a variety of small, baked, cheese-flavored rolls”.

I have a few problems with this definition:
1.      These are not cheese flavored. There is real cheese (and lots of it) in these bad boys.
2.     Cheese bun sounds like a version of a Danish and, again, these are not “flavored” or Danish-like

In other South American countries there have variations on chipá so I give kudos to Wikipedia for associating them with Brazil’s popular pão de queijo.

I discovered these bundles of joyful deliciousness while dining at Cabaña Las Lilas.  I asked if they had any gluten-free bread and they pointed to the chipá.  I was initially very hesitant because the consistency was like no gluten-free bread I have ever seen.  I double checked with our tour guide, Maria, fearing that maybe my Spanish was rusty and the waiter did not really understand my dietary restrictions.  Maria confirmed that chipá are made from mandioca a tuber also known as cassava, also known as tapioca!  So I devoured these bread balls and thus began my quest for more chipá and for the perfect recipe to recreate while back in New York.

The great thing about being in BA is that there are bakeries - panaderías - on almost every block and if you go in the morning you are likely able to find a bag of 12 fresh chipá for a few pesos.

Now in the States, I've been scouring the web for the perfect chipá recipe.  The first I found that seemed to accurately describe the Argentine version (as opposed to the Brazilian or Paraguayan) was from food.com.  The recipe was very simple – tapioca starch, butter, eggs, lots and lots and lots of cheese.  I used mozzarella, provolone and ricotta salata despite what the recipe suggested.

  
food.com finished product

Eating chipá while watching Nueve Reinas.
How Argentine can you get?

The results were delicious!  Definitely had the cheesy goodness, but the round balls melted into more pancake/cookie like figures.  I was also aiming for that toasted brown outer layer and I think I cooked them too long because they were fairly toasted on the outside which also affected the soft consistency of the inside.  I had no problem eating my first attempt at replicating heaven, but ultimately I wasn't satisfied.

Since the Brazilian pão de queijo seems comparable to chipá, I asked a Brazilian coworker if he had a personal recipe better than what Google was providing.  He responded extremely enthusiastically claiming that he makes batches of hundreds of pão de queijo that he will eat for breakfast lunch and dinner!  His recipe is below.

He recommended using “polvilho azedo” which the internet told me is Brazilian sour manioc starch.  

Using 500g of this sour starch tapioca flour….
2 cups of milk
1 cup of oil (olive oil, non-extra virgin may be better, since it has less taste)
2-3 eggs
1 billion pounds of cheese (or 4 cups).

1. Preheat the over to 375F
2. Bring the milk and oil to a boil.
3. Pour the super hot liquid onto the starch, in a bowl big enough to knead in and mix. The amount of liquid here is important: too much and it’ll get too sticky or liquidy (which is fine if you have the mini muffin pans), too little and it won’t properly scald the starch, leaving it tasting a bit like raw flour.
4. Wait a bit so it’s cool enough to handle and knead until uniform.
5. Gradually mix in the cheese, adding one egg at the time and judging whether it can handle another one. Don’t add all of the eggs at once or you could end up with a super sticky dough that is a huge pain to work with (unless you’re going for the mini muffin pans)
6. Roll them into little balls, place on a baking sheet (or in the mini muffin tins) and bake for 20-25 minutes.

I made some variations on this theme based on what I had available – I used Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour, not the traditional Brazilian polvilho.  Also went for one cup of 1% milk and 1% almond milk which could have messed up something during the oil/milk boiling process.  The dough seemed very wet and sticky so I only used 1 egg.  I put half the batter in balls on a baking sheet and the other half in muffin tins, not mini.  Again, I was looking for the browning on the top so I kept them in longer than 25 minutes.  Also, when I tested one from the muffin tin right out of the oven, the inside was warm but seemed to be the same consistency as the dough and I got scared.

My Brazilian Version, possibly over-cooked

The final product was still delicious, but I haven't mastered that light, fluffy, cheesy consistency of the chipá in Argentina.

While writing this post I found this recipe: http://authenticbraziliancuisine.blogspot.com/2010/03/gluten-free-delicious-pao-de-queijo.htmlI will try that next.