Did you know that there was a 27th part of the alphabet? It is called the ampersand, “&”.
I recently read a history (from blog.dictionary.com) on the alphabet and was surprised to learn about the ampersand’s part in the alphabet. The word “ampersand” is actually a combination of the words “and per se and”, slurred together. This amalgamation came about in the early 1800s when schoolchildren recited the alphabet, ending it with the ampersand. Since ampersand meant “and”, it would be unclear to state “X, Y, Z, and.” Instead, children said “and per se and.” This actually means “and, by itself, and.” That dangling “and” is confusing. The smudging of the last four words became what we know now as ampersand.
Why ampersand was dropped from the alphabet is unclear. It could possibly coincide with the start of the ever-popular ABC song, very notably leaving out ampersand from any sing-song lyrics.
Another tidbit: when a word is created from an incorrect pronunciation, like ampersand, it’s called a mondegreen. This often happens in misheard song lyrics. Mondegreens may share sounds of the original word but they change the meaning of the word or sentence entirely. And the word mondegreen itself is a mondegreen. Remember that song by the Go-Go’s “Our Lips are Sealed”? I know more than one friend who thought the lyrics said “Alex the Seal.” Really. That is a very good example of a mondegreen. The song “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann — not singing about a douche.
So why juxtapose the ampersand with pão de queijo? Pão de queijo feels like a mondegreen of ingredients to me: the mix of tapioca flour and cheese seem misunderstood, two ingredients that I never associated with cuisines I’m familiar with, coming together to make a savory, chewy crisp bread. It’s got the comfort of tangy cheese with the squishy charm of mochi. Smudge these ingredients together: you will not be disappointed.
One year ago: chocolate-cherry buckwheat granola (so good!)
Two years ago: tsebhi sega (spicy eritrean meat)
Five years ago: homemade ricotta
- 2 cups in 1 tablespoon (250 g) tapioca starch
- 125 mL whole milk
- 3 tablespoons (40 g) butter (Note: Rachel's original recipe states that 1 "heaped" tablespoon of butter equals 40 g. My research shows otherwise; and maybe her information is a typo.)
- 125 g shredded Parmesan (feel free to try other cheeses too)
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of salt (Rachel in the original recipe uses ½ tablespoon but I feel this is too much, especially if using salty cheese)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda (<--- if using "sweet" tapioca starch, use baking soda too. The "sweet" starch is the kind you can find most readily in American grocery stores. The "sour" tapioca starch is preferred and more authentic but difficult to find outside of Brazil. The original recipe adds the baking soda to the more readily available sweet tapioca to give it a more authentic consistency that Rachel feels comes from the sour tapioca.)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Bring milk and butter to a boil, watching carefully to avoid bubble over. It is important that the milk mixture is boiling before you add the tapioca starch or the recipe will not work!
- When the milk mixture is boiling, add it quickly to a mixing bowl containing the tapioca starch. Mash it with a fork to mix then mix with a standup mixer to continue. The resulting mixture will look like crumbly snow.
- Add the egg and cheese and baking soda and continue to mix to combine well. Using the standup mixer here also works well.
- The resulting dough should be smooth but somewhat sticky. The sides of the bowl should be clean. If it is too sticky to handle, place dough in the refrigerator for five minutes before rolling.
- Roll 16 balls of equal size, about 1 inch to 1½ inches in diameter. Place on parchment lined baking pan, turn oven heat to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and bake for 20 minutes, checking at 17 minutes to prevent overbrowning and dry-out. Depending on your oven, you may need to bake up to 30 minutes.
- Serve when barely golden brown and hot. These go well with tea, breakfast, or soup.
- To reheat: place in a low oven for 10 minutes to heat through. I like microwaving for a few seconds for a warm, chewy bread.
- To freeze: You can freeze the unbaked rolled balls. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake (perfect for breakfast). They may need a few more minutes to bake because of the cold, but they should turn out almost exactly the same as if baking the unfrozen dough.