Pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread)

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my brother lives in Portland, Oregon. He used to live in Dallas, and he and his family are moving back again this summer. I’m excited about that for a number of reasons. First, my brother, his wife and my niece are three of my favorite people in the world. Oregon is a long haul from southern Alabama, but Dallas isn’t.

Plus Dallas is great. I mean, really. I’ve lived all over the country—Maine, Missouri, Washington state, Puerto Rico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and a very short stint in California—and I settled here in Alabama for a reason. It’s home. I love it. And there are only a few places I would give it up for: anywhere in Florida, Rome, and Dallas.

Why Dallas? Because there are very few bad things I can say about it. There’s no beach and a lot of traffic. But that’s it. Everything else is a plus. You can find just about anything there. Great concerts that we don’t get here. The Perot Museum. The Christmas ice sculpture exhibit at the Gaylord.

And Brazilian steak houses. We were visiting my brother a few years back, and I had never been to a Brazilian steak house before. He said we had to try it. So we all trekked over there.

I had no idea how unprepared I was.

My brother had neglected to tell me that, to fully appreciate a Brazilian steak house, it’s better to go really, really hungry. As in starving. Don’t eat for at least two days. I had eaten lunch that day--a rookie mistake that will never happen again.

And there was the disc. Green means go, red means stop. Fairly elementary. I thought I could handle that. What he didn’t tell me was that the second you flip that disc over to green, prepare for an ambush. I flipped the disc and a stream of servers began to wave sides of meat under my nose. You go to take a bite of one and they’re plunking something else on your plate. Your taste buds are singing and you want to try it all, so you tell them to keep it coming. And they do.  

At first, I thought it was no big deal. After seven or eight of the servers had come and gone, I had a collection of small bites on my plate. They were just little bites, after all. When I eat dinner, don’t I usually eat more than eight bites? That didn’t seem like much.

But after five or six bites, I was filling up. And the servers just kept coming. There was stuff I hadn’t tried. I didn’t want to wave the white flag on an all-you-can-eat meat fest after half a dozen bites of food. I soldiered on for a few more bites, but I am, apparently, a wimp. A couple more of the servers were preparing to pounce. I flipped the disc over to red.

The assault stopped.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the term “meat sweats,” but if you’ve never experienced them before, I can personally assure you it is exactly what it sounds like. Oh. My. Gosh. I began to wonder how many people they’d had to scrape off the walls after they exploded. As my husband said, that was a different kind of full. I left wanting both to take a nap and to run around the block three times to beat that heavy, gut bomb feeling out of my system.

It was awesome. Seriously.

One of the things they dropped on the table before the chaos started was a basket of this Brazilian cheese bread. These little guys are incredible. When I came across this recipe some time later, I snatched it up. And when my doctor made me give up gluten, these became my go-to rolls for steak night. They’re dirt simple to make, and they’re made with tapioca flour, which means they’re gluten free and have a light, chewy texture that’s unlike any wheat rolls you’ve ever tried.

I suspect these would keep well, but I haven’t managed to have any leftovers yet. Even when I double the recipe, my family still scarfs them down like I haven’t fed them in a week. Make sure to use freshly grated parmesan, and not the pre-shredded stuff. And save the recipe. I promise you’ll want to make these again.

Brazilian cheese bread

Pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread)

1 egg

1/4 c. vegetable oil

1 1/2 c. tapioca flour

3/4 teasp. salt

2/3 c. milk

1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Spray mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray. In a blender, blend egg, oil, flour, salt and milk until well blended. Add cheese and blend for another 5-10 seconds. Fill each cup about 2/3 full. Bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes).

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Cake

My husband and I have dinner parties a lot. And I mean a lot. We have a patio that’s made for it-grill, smoker, Tiki bar with draft beer on tap (built it myself!!), fire pit, antique soda machine, and an ice chest big enough for an adult to sit comfortably inside. 

Tiki Bar

Adulting can be a lot of fun.

My husband turned 50 last year, and he’s lived in in the same ten mile radius since he was 2. Before he and his dad bought the butcher shop, he worked for a major corporation and had hundreds of people at a time working for him. Now, most of the people in the community where the shop is located are his customers. Between his work and high school, he knows everyone. Just try going grocery shopping with him-if we get in and out with less than five people stopping him, it’s a slow day.

So our dinner parties usually include a lot of people. The most we’ve had is 60, but thankfully, my husband doesn’t do that to me often. We would still be married if he did, but it wouldn’t be nearly as pleasant.

For either of us.

But for parties of a dozen or so, I get the chance to try out new recipes without feeling like I’m catering for an event. I suppose it’s a little risky to test stuff I’ve never tried before on a party, but everyone keeps coming back. They like my husband a lot, but everyone keeps eating, so the food must be okay. I guess I’ve been lucky.

My husband invited some of his high school friends over this weekend, and since these were some of his oldest friends, he wanted to pull out the filet mignon. That meant I had to come up with sides and a dessert that could stand up next to his steak—no small task.

Oh, yeah. And they had to be gluten free.

Enter this chocolate and peanut butter cake. Holy Cannoli, Batman. I almost drove to Panama City to slap my mama. But I value my life, so I settled for an extra bite of cake. It’s even better after sitting overnight. It’s sinfully rich, so pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Cake

For the cake layers:

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups chopped semi-sweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
6 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease three 8 inch cake pans (depending on how many layers you want) and line with parchment paper. Melt the butter and chocolate chips in the microwave or on the stove top. Meanwhile beat together the eggs and sugar for about five minutes at high speed until pale and more than doubled in volume. Add the vanilla to the eggs and beat until combined. Sift in the cocoa and salt and mix again until combined. Pour in the melted chocolate and butter and beat until combined. Divide into prepared cake pans and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out with some crumbs attached but no longer wet.

For the Peanut Butter Cream:

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream

While the cake layer is baking, cream together the peanut butter and butter. Add the salt and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar and cream. If too thin add more sugar, if too thick add more cream. Beat until fluffy. Set aside.

For the Chocolate Ganache:
2 cups of chocolate chips 
1/2 cup butter

Melt in the microwave at 50% power, stirring ever thirty seconds. Cool for a few minutes before assembling cake--you want it thin enough to spread but not so hot it will melt the peanut butter cream.

Once the cake is done baking, let cool slightly, remove one layer carefully from pan and parchment paper, and lay on plate. Top a layer of peanut butter cream (cake will be very crumbly, so use the cream to bind it, then a layer of ganache. Repeat with next layer of cake, peanut butter cream, and ganache then top with last layer of cake and a layer of peanut butter cream. Frost with remaining ganache (I made another half recipe of ganache so I would have plenty to work with), then garnish with crumbled peanut butter cups.