In the couple dozen times I've flicked through my Lab Farewell Cookbook, I've often noticed this recipe for pan de yuca (i.e. cassava bread) and wondered what the best occasion might be for making it. The neatly handwritten recipe didn't explain whether I should be serving these as snacks or as part of a main meal, or if there might be a classic condiment to spread on them. (The source website has a bunch of fun variations - I'm most taken by the ones stuffed with guava paste!)
My second reservation was the texture: these breads are completely gluten-free, based primarily on tapioca starch and cheese. Most of us love a bit of melted cheese, but I worried that the high dose of tapioca would form something gummy or gluey. Nevertheless, I took a chance on them as a snack to share with a few friends visiting our house, and the entire batch was eaten by the time they left!
These little breads have a bouncy, lightly chewy texture that's a touch like sourdough bread, but mostly not like wheat-based bread at all. My combination of half mozzarella and half sharp cheddar lent them a little elasticity and a lot of flavour. Even though we didn't give them the chance, I get the impression that these breads get stale and tough fast. I shared them just one plateful at a time, leaving the extras in the still-warm oven to extend their freshness. The recipe gave other strategies for storage that allow you to freshly bake just the quantity you want to eat on the spot: refrigerating the dough whole, freezing individual dough balls, and simply microwaving leftovers.
Now that I know how easy they are to make and eat, I won't hesitate to make this unusual dough again.
Pan de yuca
(a recipe shared by Dave in the Lab Farewell Cookbook,
where it's credited to laylita.com)
2 1/2 cups tapioca starch
4 cups grated cheese (use a mixture! mozzarella, queso fresco, parmesan, etc)
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
115g butter, at room temperature
2-4 tablespoons of water or milk
In a large bowl, stir together the tapioca starch, cheeses, baking powder and salt. Melt the butter in a microwave or small saucepan over a stove and pour it into the bowl, stirring just to spread any heat around. Crack in the eggs, and then stir everything together thoroughly to form a dough. Add a little water or milk if you need it, to reach a dough consistency. (You can store the dough in the fridge for a couple of days if you like.)
Line a baking tray or two with paper. Roll tablespoons of the dough into balls and place them on the tray(s). (You can freeze the dough balls at this stage for weeks if you like.) Refrigerate the balls for 30 minutes (I skipped this, with no ill effects).
Preheat an oven to 250°C. Bake the breads for 7-13 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve warm.