Tag Archives: gluten free

Pão de Queijo

My first experience of the delightful Brazilian snack pão de queijo–Portuguese for “cheese bread,” though it is also often rendered “Brazilian cheese roll”–came during the years I was working with Maria Baez Kijac on her iconic cookbook, The South American Table. It’s a pretty irresistible treat that has the benefit of being gluten free. Maria’s cookbook includes a recipe for the dish, and she taught me how to make it–but life is pretty crazy, between working for a living and caring for my aging mom, plus other activities, and baking has pretty much slipped out of my life. And with Maria now semi-retired, I didn’t think I’d have the chance to enjoy these chewy, cheesy little balls again any time soon.

Fortunately, this last weekend at the National Restaurant Association Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, while I spent most of my time looking at fabulous kitchen equipment (I was there representing Foodservice Equipment Reports, a magazine for which I write with some regularity), I did visit a few of the booths of food vendors, including that of Forno de Minas, a family-owned Brazilian business that not only produces pão de queijo (from a generations-old family recipe), it sells them frozen in U.S. grocery stores. Having been delighted by the samples they were handing out at the show, as soon as I got home, I looked Forno de Minas up online and found that they sell their frozen pão de queijo in several local grocery stores.

For me, this was a happy discovery. For those who might need to be gluten free, this could be a lifesaver. Instead of wheat flour, pão de queijo is made from yuca (also known as cassava or tapioca). While yuca/tapioca/cassava flour is now available in many stores–and really pretty much anywhere, if you have a computer–if you don’t want to tackle making these from scratch, I can assure you that the pão de queijo from Forno de Minas is the next best thing to homemade–and in most cases, even better than homemade, if your home doesn’t come equipped with a Brazilian baker.

Anyway, I do highly recommend the pão de queijo from Forno de Minas, even if you’re not worried about gluten. Really a dandy, flavorful, and rather comforting taste treat.

And if you want to find out which stores near you might carry it, here’s their website: http://www.fornodeminas.com/

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Sorghum

If you asked people to name the most important grains in the world, most would readily identify corn, wheat, and rice. However, at least in the U.S., people might not think to mention sorghum, and yet sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world–and the third most important in the U.S.

Sorghum has the great advantage of growing in hot, arid places that are not friendly to other grain crops. For millions of people in Asia and Africa who live in such climates, grain sorghum is a staple food. In these regions, sorghum, along with equally resilient millet, are often the only grains available. It is most commonly ground and made into porridge or breads.

However, not all sorghum is the same. While some sorghum is grown for its grain, sweet sorghum is, like sugarcane, grown primarily for the sweet syrup that can be obtained by crushing its juicy stalks. Sweet sorghum also has grain, but the grains are smaller.

It appears that sorghum was first domesticated in western Africa, in the savannah just south of the Sahara, about 7,000 years ago. Trade and migration took it eastward, and by about 2000 B.C., it spanned the continent. Africa is still a leading grower and consumer of sorghum. There is some debate as to whether the sorghum that appeared later in India and China was introduced or was independently domesticated. However, there is much evidence that India and Africa were trading early on, so introduction is a distinct possibility.

Grain sorghum is also known as milo, and it is grown extensively in areas that are hot and dry, including large swaths of the Great Plains in the U.S. Most grain sorghum in the U.S. is used to feed livestock, though some is used to produce ethanol—and because it’s gluten free, it is also gaining some market share as a cooking grain and flour, as well as for brewing gluten-free beer.
gfd_shiloh_sorghum
Sorghum is not quite as nutritious as corn, but it can be grown where water is limited. The U.S. is now actually the top grower of sorghum in the world, slightly ahead of Nigeria and India, which are tied for second place. (If you’re interested in how widespread sorghum cultivation is, here’s a map that shows where it’s grown: Sorghum Map and Stats) http://archive.gramene.org/species/sorghum/sorghum_maps_and_stats.html

Sweet sorghum is still grown across the American South, where sorghum syrup was once a nearly ubiquitous sweetener. By the mid-1800s, most towns in the south-central region had mills for processing sweet sorghum. Sorghum boils were once as common in the South as “maple syrup boils” were in New England.
oberholtzers-sorghum-molasses
While sorghum syrup was displaced in the early 1900s, when granulated sugar became widely available, it is still being produced. If one lives in the North, sorghum syrup is most likely to be found at specialty shops or places that carry natural sweeteners, such as Whole Foods. It can also be found online. Like molasses, sorghum offers better nutrition than white sugar. Also like molasses, it is less sweet and has a distinctive flavor. Sorghum syrup is slightly less thick than molasses, however. Because of its greater nutritional density, it can spoil. While an unopened tin or jar can last for a considerable time on a shelf, once the container is opened, the sorghum syrup (and molasses, as well) should be refrigerated, and should probably be consumed within a couple of months of being opened.

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