I recently discovered Pandebonos – an amazing South American cheese bread which goes by many alternative names and which is entirely gluten free – made using cassava / tapioca flour, cornmeal and cheese. It’s good. REALLY good… Cheesy, slightly chewy, soft, moist and delicious. It needs no butter or spread (although is happy to have the indulgence), is wonderful warm or cold, and ripped open and stuffed with salami, ham, coleslaw, houmous, tomatoes or even spinach, makes a wonderful snack or light lunch.
And (just in case you missed it the first time), Pandebonos is entirely (and naturally) gluten free!
Apparently, the Colombians/South Americans eat it freshly made for breakfast with real hot chocolate. Sounds like my sort of breakfast…
The first time I had Pandebonos, I knew I just HAD to learn how to make it. So I went on a lengthy internet search to find a good, straight forward, authentic recipe. The problem was finding one which suited UK ingredients. Once I started looking into it, I found it virtually impossible to source the ‘required’ South American cheeses and extremely difficult (and quite expensive) to obtain Masarepa, the South American cornmeal which appeared to be essential to the qualities of the dough. Apart from the authentic, local recipes, most of the adaptations come from the US which evidently has access to ingredients simply not available over here.
The most frequently suggested alternative cheese is Greek Feta, which I tried on its own in the bread mix, but found it a little too sour for my taste-buds. And although I tried using Masa Harina in place of Masarepa (as suggested in some recipes), this seemed to result in a solid roll which would be better suited to warfare.
And so… I have been on a lengthy quest to create a cheese bread, as close to Pandebonos as possible, but which is made using easy to source ingredients from UK supermarkets and still tastes fantastic.
You would not believe how many batches and variants I have subjected my family to, in order to get to this recipe. It has honestly been an obsession. Fortunately, even when the trials have gone hideously wrong (mostly flat and squidgy), they still taste deliciously cheesy and are very edible, otherwise I would have been forced to abandon my quest weeks ago. You have no idea how excited I am to be able to reach a recipe that I am willing (even happy) to share.
I ‘toned down’ the sharpness of the Feta with some Mozzarella cheese (the drier grated variety) and although originally, I tried (as a substitute to the Masarepa) a small amount of pre-cooked polenta alongside the tapioca flour, I have found that this is not necessary and the bread is amazing with just the use of tapioca starch flour.
Some recipes for Pandebonos contain no raising agent and some contain baking powder. I tried to avoid using anything and to rely on heat to push them upwards. However, after this proved very unreliable and after one too many completely flat results I resorted to using a little baking powder assistance, and the results became more consistent. Getting the ratios of wet to dry ingredients right also seems to be critical to a bread-like result, although if the dough is very slightly over sticky (or over worked) the resulting rolls are still delicious, but have a more spongy quality, which for some may be preferable.
I confess…………… it has not been an easy journey. But fortunately, very few ingredients have been wasted, as all disasters have been good enough to be happily eaten.
The process for making these cheese rolls is really simple. You can blitz all the ingredients in a food processor to form a wet dough, or I have found that using a potato masher and/or squidging with my hands works equally well. Good luck and enjoy shamelessly!
160g Mozzarella cheese (the drier grated pizza variety)
160g Feta cheese
190g tapioca flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
Amendment : At 5 below – The most effective and consistent way to blend the ingredients is either with your hands (best wearing food gloves) or mashing with a potato masher until really smooth. It works (in my view_ better than using a food processor, because it allows full control for judging the dough consistency, so that it becomes really smooth, but not over liquified.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7.
- Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat with a fork until well blended.
- Weigh all the ingredients into either a large bowl (if you are mixing by hand/potato masher) or a food processor and add the beaten egg.
- Mash, food process or squish with hands all the ingredients together until you have a well blended, smooth, sticky dough-paste (you may need to work quite hard to break down the feta, but it is worth doing the job properly).
- Rub a little oil onto your hands and hand-roll the dough into about 15 balls. Place these on the baking trays with space between them.
- Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6 (don’t open the door).
- Cook for a further 10 minutes until the rolls are risen and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on the trays.
- Best eaten fresh and warm. Rolls can be ‘refreshed’ in the microwave on high for a few seconds only if necessary to re-warm. Freeze fresh on the day of making and warm them in the microwave.