Every place has a certain food that you just can’t seem to get anywhere else. For New Yorkers it’s the bagel. For the French, the croissant. Pão de Queijo (cheese bread) is that food for Brazilians. For years we’ve gotten by on packaged dough balls from the frozen section of our local Brazilian market. But this weekend we found an old recipe from a friend, and realized we had everything we needed to make it from scratch at home.
On the last day of my trip, I made brunch for a group of wonderful friends of the family. There’s no such thing as “brunch” in Brazil, so I tried to be a good culinary ambassador and introduce the concept in the best possible light. Each item was adapted to the local scene: scrambled eggs with queijo de minas and fresh herbs from the front yard; coconut brioche French toast with a passionfruit-pear compote (and maple syrup straight from New York); and mimosas made with acerola juice. Nothing came out quite as I expected: the bread had a really strange texture, and the compote was more like a soup. But my hosts seemed to enjoy it all, and the mimosas were a definite hit!
The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais is famous for its cheese, and infamous for its cheese-loving citizens. A popular snack here is queijo de Minas with a slice of guava jelly. So when I saw this item on the menu, I had to try it. The cheese in question has a very light, subtle, slightly tangy flavor, so the result was somewhat reminiscent of a cold slice of cheesecake. Verdict: surprisingly delicious!