Our heroine, Katie Lightfoot, is just finishing up a meeting of her Spellbook Club (read: coven) at the Honeybee Bakery she part-owns when a sudden clamor at the door disturbs the circle. Katie and her friends discover a distraught young woman who claims, among other things, that she was sent to Katie for help … right before the strange young woman falls into a coma.
If she hadn’t been inclined to help before, discovering that the newcomer is the niece of Detective Franklin Taite—a man dedicated to wiping out evil magic—certainly spurs Katie to look into the young woman’s desperate pleas. The woman wanted her to find a voodoo queen and a gris gris, neither of which terms—much less actualities—is Katie familiar with. One member of Katie’s coven has more of a passing familiarity with both, though: Cookie Rios’s father had been a voodoo priest back in Haiti, and his untimely death had been part of the reason Cookie turned her back on the religion of her youth.
Watching Cookie struggle with her former faith and its associations, as well as with her present-day circumstances—her new husband also comes from a background that was once involved with voodoo and is even more stridently against it than she is—was one of the highlights of this book for me. It was also sad but satisfying to finally find out what happened to Franklin Taite. And this wouldn’t be a Doreen Sheridan review of a Magical Bakery series novel if I didn’t also mention how I still don’t care for Declan, Katie’s boyfriend, and still think Steve is a much better guy.
But to the recipes! I decided to skip the macaroon recipe, tempting as it was, solely because I’m a huge fan of the other dish on offer:
Lucy’s Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo)
*Makes 2 dozen puffs—or 1 dozen if you make them twice as large for sandwiches
1 cup whole milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups tapioca flour, sifted
2 large eggs
¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¾ cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Note: you will reduce the heat once the bread goes in the oven, so arrange the racks to accommodate two baking sheets at once. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine milk and oil in a 2-quart saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring. As soon as it begins to boil, remove from heat and add the salt and all of the tapioca flour at once. Stir until combined. The dough will be slightly grainy in appearance.
Put the dough into the bowl of a standing mixer. (You can also do the next bit by hand if you’re looking for a work-out.) Beat the dough for 2-3 minutes at medium speed, until it is smooth and has cooled enough to easily touch for several seconds. Crack an egg into a ramekin and scramble slightly. Add it to the dough and mix on medium until incorporated. Repeat with the second egg. The dough will be smooth and slightly golden. Add the Parmesan and Cheddar and beat the mixture on medium until the cheeses are thoroughly incorporated.
The dough will be sticky with a consistency between a dough and a batter. With an ice-cream scoop or using two soup spoons, portion the dough into mounds a bit more than an inch apart on the lined baking sheets. Smaller puffs take about two tablespoons of dough, but you can double that size to make larger rolls (add extra space between them), or use less dough for bite-sized appetizer.
Place the baking sheets into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the dough has puffed, the exterior is dry, and the outside begins to color.
Serve immediately, or store for up to a week in an airtight container.
So, the last few times I’ve had pao de queijo were at a Brazilian steakhouse, and wow were those buns out of this world. This is a decent approximation for a home recipe but, sadly for me, came nowhere close to the bread I had expected. And to be honest, I’m not sure if it was because I just didn’t knead it all correctly. My small kitchen doesn’t have room for a stand mixer, so my stab mixer does a lot of the work, and I’m not sure if I got quite the correct textures that I should have.
That said, taste-wise, this was delicious! The main difference between the buns I made here and the ones I’ve had at steakhouses was the texture: these weren’t as smooth and light as I expected, but they were still very tasty. And if you’ve never had Brazilian cheese bread before, this is definitely a good place to start, with a relatively simple (and gluten-free!) recipe.
And that’s it for the Magical Bakery series until Bailey Cates writes the next installment! Next week, I try my hand at Greek food: do join me!
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.