Blog Checking Lines: This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!“taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!
This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was to make a unique (to me) gluten-free bread from Brazil called Pão de Queijo. Pão de Queijo ( Pão = Bread; Queijo = Cheese) is a non-yeasted “bread”, made from tapioca starch/flour. It is apparently quite popular in Brazil and I can understand why. The dough comes together very quickly, doesn’t require rising, bakes for a short time and has a nice cheesy taste and an addicting chewy texture.
I had actually made this bread once before using a King Arthur Flour recipe and liked it very much but then forgot all about it. This month’s challenge was a nice reminder of that unique treat. Renata gave us several recipes to choose from. Since I had already made the “roll” version of them before, I decided to first try the quick version. The quick version is a batter that is made up in the blender and cooked in a muffin tin, much like a popover. I unfortunately baked this one a bit too long and the cheese flavor did not come through. I still ate too many of them though as I love the chewy texture of the tapioca flour!
For my second attempt, I went back to the traditional form Pão de Queijo which is baked in little balls to form addictive little puffs of chewy and cheesy goodness. The dough is simple to mix up – just tapioca flour mixed with a boiled milk, butter and salt mixture. To this crumbly mixture, grated Monterey Jack cheese is added and then the whole thing is bound together with a few beaten eggs. The rolls cook pretty quickly in a very hot oven until they are just lightly browned on the bottom. I recommend sharing them with friends immediately or you may endanger your waistline!
All of the Pão de Queijo recipes from this challenge can be found at this link.
I had never heard of Swedish Chocolate Balls (Chokladbollar) until recently. We were at one of our favorite chocolate shops in San Francisco, getting a drinking chocolate and a pastry to start our day. The shop worker offered us a little round chocolate cookie coated in sugar. It had a nice gritty crunch (from the sugar) and a chewy texture and good chocolate flavor. They were not on the menu, but something she had made for a Swedish party the night before at her home because she was homesick for Sweden and the foods she loved from her home country. We asked what it was, and she said that it was a common Swedish childhood treat called a Swedish Chocolate Ball which was a no-bake treat made from cocoa powder, oatmeal and sugar.
Fast forward to a really, really hot day on which I needed a simple dessert for company. I didn’t want to turn on the oven, so I was flipping through my no-bake repertoire and remembered about the Swedish Chocolate Balls. A quick check on the internet turned up a lot of different versions. I combined a couple of different recipe elements and came up with a version that I like very much. It’s quickly become my new favorite no-bake cookie.
They are simple to make – just mix together melted unsweetened chocolate, butter, sugar, coffee or milk, vanilla, cocoa powder and oatmeal. Press this mixture together into small balls and roll in flaked coconut, sprinkles or granulated sugar. That’s it, the hard part is waiting a few hours while they firm up in the refrigerator!
You can have this cake, warm and fragrant, in about 30 minutes and for about $1.33, assuming you own a microwave and have the ingredients on hand. Not bad! I made this humble cake for May’s We Should Cocoa challenge which is hosted by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog. Each month we are challenged to make something with chocolate that meets the theme set for that month. For this month’s challenge, Choclette wanted to spotlight the plight of many people around the world who live in extreme poverty and challenged us to see if we could make a chocolate cake for just £1 (or $1.70 by today’s exchange rate).
When the challenge was announced, I immediately thought of my favorite quick chocolate snack cake, the Crazy Cake (or Wacky Cake, Dump Cake, Vinegar and Oil Cake, Depression Cake) from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Nathalie Houghton. It was apparently popular during the depression and contains no eggs, butter or dairy. This particular version of the cake is made in the microwave, making it pretty much instant gratification for a chocolate cake craving, unexpected visitors or simply not wanting to turn on the oven in the summer. As a bonus, the cake is mixed up entirely in the baking dish so there aren’t many dishes to clean either.
The first step was determining if the cake deserved it’s frugal reputation. I priced out the ingredients and found that if I use my homemade vanilla extract that the cake came in at $1.33/£.78. If I had used store-bought vanilla extract, it would have been unaffordable as the 2 tsp. of vanilla would have cost $1.03! I wasn’t able to figure out how much 1 cup of water out of my tap costs as we do not pay our water bill separately, but I figure it’s small enough that I didn’t count it here.
Here’s how the cost breaks down:
Cost in Recipe
1 1/2 Cup
granulated white sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder
homemade vanilla extract
instant espresso powder
powdered sugar for dusting
There’s even some wiggle room here if you wanted to splurge and try to make a cocoa powder glaze for the top.
To make the cake, the dry ingredients are combined in a baking dish. Three holes are made into which the vinegar, vanilla and oil are poured. The water, mixed with espresso powder, is poured over the top of it all. The ingredients are mixed well in the baking pan and then the pan is cooked in the microwave at 50% powder for 4 minutes (rotating halfway if your microwave doesn’t have a turntable.
Adding the wet ingredients
The cake is then cooked for another 2 – 4 minutes, checking regularly after 2 minutes until it looks fully baked and risen. It’s important to watch carefully or you can overcook it which results in a dry cake.
Fully baked in 4-8 minutes!
Let it cool as long as you can stand it, then dust with powdered sugar and serve! If you’re feeling like splurging, this cake is also good with melted chocolate on top, peanut butter frosting or a little warmed Nutella.
Author: BakeNQuilt adapted from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Nathalie Hougton
Recipe type: Dessert
Depression-era chocolate cake made without eggs, dairy or butter.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1 tsp baking soda
scant ½ tsp salt
⅓ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup cold water
¼ tsp espresso powder (optional)
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar for dusting
If you're using the espresso powder, place it in a measuring cup with 1 tbsp hot water to let it dissolve. In an ungreased 8 x 8 inch microwave-safe glass baking dish, mix together flour, white sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Make 3 holes (1 large, 1 med, 1 sm) in the mixture. Add oil to the large hole, vinegar to the medium hole, and 2 tsp vanilla to the small hole. Add cold water to the espresso mixture to make 1 cup. Pour water and espresso mixture over all. Stir well with a fork or whisk to blend. Scrape down the sides and corners of the dish with a rubber spatula.
Cook in a microwave oven on 50% power for 4 minutes, turning dish twice during cooking time. Then cook on full power about 2 to 4 minutes, or until done (check frequently). Do not overcook or the cake will be dry (see notes).
Let the cake cool entirely and dust with powdered sugar or frost with your favorite frosting. If desired, chopped chocolate may also be sprinkled on the cake right out of the microwave and allowed to melt for a few minutes before spreading it.
Cook the cake until the top looks "baked" and the center no longer looked like a pool of batter. The edges will cook first and the center will cook last. In the last minute or two of cooking, you should be able to smell the lovely cake aroma. My microwave is a couple years old, so an older, less powerful model might take longer and a newer one may take less time. Also, I have a turntable so I didn't have to manually rotate the pan. This cake is best if not over-baked, so start checking after 2 minutes on high and check it every extra 30 seconds or so after that Once you know how long it takes in your microwave, make a note of it for the next time.
The cake may also be baked in a 350F/176C oven for about 25 minutes.
I can’t believe this sock took 6 months to knit. I blame the new cat, who insists on sitting on my lap full time and wiggling constantly. It’s a little hard to knit with all that going on. However, she recently discovered a sunny spot in the dinging room so I have an hour or so when the sun hits that window to get a lot done.
This sock is another one from my sock knitting group and the pattern is Achilles Heal (spelling intentional) by Lucia Light. It’s name comes from the idea that the sock is knit without the heal initially and then the heal is added at the end. This would enable the heal to be replaced when it wears through. I had every intention of doing this, but after first knitting half a sock in the wrong size and being delayed by the cat, I decided it was in my best interests to just plow through with my usual method. Besides, my chances of EVER re-knitting a heel, and of even being able to locate the yarn, are pretty much nil. I do really like the pattern though. The stitches are interesting enough that the sock looks beautiful in the Malabrigo Primavera colorway super-wash sock yarn that I chose, but also simple enough that I was easily able to remember the pattern. I also didn’t drop a single stitch while knitting this pattern which is quite an accomplishment!