Tapioca Recipes – Two ways to use ‘goma de tapioca’

Gluten-free anything seems to be all the rage at the moment and quite regularly I get questions from people curious about tapioca flours and wondering what other gluten-free tapioca recipes I have. After a long hiatus, I am ready to share a new gluten-free tapioca recipe. If you are still a little confused about what I mean by tapioca take a look at my post on tapioca/manioc flours, hopefully that will clear some things up!

In the north of Brazil there are many foods that are made with manioc flours, much more than in the south. For a very long time manioc flours were the primary flour source in the north, therefore all breads, cakes and cookies were made with manioc flours. Over the past years these recipes have begun to make their way to the south of Brazil and slowly new and different gluten-free recipes are getting known, as well as access to some different manioc flours!

One of the most popular items at the moment is a dry-white manioc starch pancake called tapioca. This pancake is eaten for breakfast or as a snack in the north of Brazil filled with butter and cheese, or jam, or any other filling you may like.

Tapioca is made with a hydrated manioc starch called ‘goma de tapioca’. It used to be almost impossible to find goma de tapioca in the south, but with the growing popularity of tapioca you can almost find it anywhere.

Making the tapioca pancake is super easy. For those of you in the USA, the hardest thing will be trying to find the goma de tapioca. If you cannot find the goma you can always use polvilho azedo and hydrate it yourself (see below for instructions).

I often eat tapioca as an afternoon snack and for breakfast I sometimes make a richer european pancake, substituting the white flour for goma de tapioca. I have included instructions for making the traditional northern tapioca and my european tapioca pancake. Enjoy!

Making Goma de Tapioca at home:
To make the hydrated tapioca starch flour you will need to start with either tapioca flour, polivilho azedo or polvilho doce. To buy online take a look at these links: tapioca flour, polivilho azedo, polvilho doce.

You will need:
> 500g tapioca flour, polivilho azedo or polvilho doce
> 200ml water

Step 1: Put the tapioca flour, polvilho azedo or polvilho doce into a bowl. Begin adding the water a little at a time, mixing well with each addition. It is important to add the water slowly so that you guarantee all of the flour is fully hydrated. Once all the water has been mixed in, let sit for 30 minutes.

Step 2: Pass the hydrated flour through a sieve to get rid of all lumps. Store in a sealed container in the fridge. The hydrated flour will keep for up to 2 weeks.

The Brazilian Tapioca Pancake: Once you have the hydrated tapioca flour sieve the flour into a hot frying pan, make sure you create a good layer and making sure to spread evenly over the pan. Leave for 30-60 seconds and then turn over (you do not want the flour to brown). Bake on the other side for another 30 seconds. Remove from pan. You can eat the tapioca pancake with any filling you wish; my favorites are jam or cheese.

Pancakes made with goma de tapioca instead of white flour

Pancakes made with goma de tapioca instead of white flour

The European Tapioca Pancake: Although I am providing a recipe for the european tapioca pancake that I make at home, you can use any pancake recipe, just substitute the white flour for goma de tapioca (hydrated tapioca flour). I have not made this with american style pancakes, so do not know if it will work.

Give these pancakes a go, they are super tasty and are a little bit chewier than regular pancakes. They make for an excellent pancake for anyone who is gluten-free or for a different pancake in the morning!

3 Eggs
1 1/2 cups of Goma de tapioca (hydrated tapioca flour)
A splash of milk
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together until you have a slightly runny batter free of lumps. Heat a frying pan and melt a bit of butter in it to prevent the pancakes from sticking. Pour some of the batter into the hot pan, bake until brown and then turn over. Bake the second side until brown. Remove from pan. Eat while hot with you favorite pancake toppings!

Do any of you have your own goma de tapioca recipes? If so, I would love to hear them!


Revisiting Manioc (yuca or cassava) Flours

Many of you will remember that a while back I did a post on what tapioca flour is (take a look HERE if you haven’t read this post yet) and tried to go into some detail about the different types of manioc flours that you can find in Brazil. I thought it was time to revisit these flours and to give a bit of a briefer explanation of the different types of flours and starches that you can find in Brazil.

I have found that many people get confused about the different manioc flours (myself included) and since gluten-free products are pretty popular at the moment, I thought it would be fitting to do another post on this topic. I hope that this is helpful and clears up any doubts people have!

What is Manioc, Cassava or Yuca?

imagesDepending on where you are from you may call this root manioc, yuca or cassava. Here in Brazil it is known either as mandioca or aipim, for simplicity’s sake I will use manioc here. Manioc is a starchy root that is native to South America, it is rich in carbohydrates, calcium and vitamin C. The manioc root is not meant to be eaten raw and in order to be consumed, must be properly cooked or processed.

To cook the manioc root, peel the brown outer skin and place in a pan of water, boil until the white flesh becomes soft. Once slightly cooled remove the woody inner center (this woody center looks like a thick piece of string).

The manioc root is the basis for the many different types of ‘mandioca flours‘ you can find in Brazil and is an important part of the Brazilian diet.

1. Farinha de Mandioca/Manioc Flour
images (1)Manioc flour, known as farinha de mandioca in Brazil, is a very coarse flour and is primarily used to make farofa, pirão, and tutu among many other dishes. There are many different types of manioc flour, all with varying degrees of coarseness. Since this flour is toasted you also find different toasts in the flour, the more toasted the more nutty the flavor. This flour is almost only used in savory dishes and, as far as I know, not at all in baking. You can buy it HERE on amazon.com.

2. Polvilho Azedo/Sour Starch
polvilho azedoThis flour is fermented and has a slightly sour taste. It is a little bit coarser than the tapioca flour (polivilho azedo). It is commonly used to make pão de queijo and when hydrated with water it is used to make tapioca pancakes. It is a great flour for savory recipes! You can buy it HERE on amazon.com.

3. Polvilho Doce/Tapioca Flour
Polvilho DoceThis is the regular tapioca flour that you can find relatively easily in the USA. This manioc starch is not fermented, is a little finer than the sour starch (polivilho azedo) and has a slightly sweeter flavor. It is commonly used in sweet recipes, but can be used in savory recipes and substituted for the sour starch (polivilho azedo). You can buy it HERE on amazon.com.

Goma de tapioca4. Goma de Tapioca/Hydrated Tapioca Flour
This is a hydrated tapioca flour used in making tapioca pancake from the north of Brazil. The hydrated starch is made by adding water to tapioca flour (or polivilho azedo or polvilho doce) and passing it through a sieve to remove the lumps. Take a look HERE to read more about the tapioca pancakes.

5. Tapioca Pearls
Tapioca Pearls
This is what everyone in the USA will know as tapioca and is used to make the traditional tapioca pudding, it is used in bubble tea and in Brazil it is used to make a pudding called sagú that is made with the tapioca pearls and red wine. Tapioca pearls can be found in different sizes from about 1mm to 8mm. You can purchase tapioca pearls at any supermarket. Here is a link to buy the SMALL PEARLS. And here is a link to buy the BIG PEARLS.

6. Coarse or Granulated Tapioca
Granulated Tapioca
This is a very coarse tapioca and is very irregular in size. It is used in both savory and sweet dishes and is usually soaked in milk before being cooked. I have used this a lot to make a simple cake; because the tapioca is somewhat gooey the texture of the cake is more like a hardened tapioca pudding (doesn’t sound too appetizing, but trust me, it is delicious)! You can buy it HERE on amazon.com.

Photo Credits:

Thanks to From Brazil to You for some great information about manioc http://www.frombraziltoyou.org/cassava-its-importance-derivatives-and-dishes/


What are Hearts of Palm?

When I first came to Brazil in 2005 I had never heard about hearts of palm. My husband was quick to introduce me and I immediately fell in love with them. Hearts of palm are mild in flavor, tender, and perfect in salads, pies, or with pasta. Hearts of palm are considered a delicacy because of the labor intensive process of harvesting them. You can find them in almost any supermarket in the USA and if you haven’t tried them before I highly recommend running to your local supermarket, grabbing a jar, and adding them to your salad for lunch or dinner. I can never get enough of hearts of palm and use any excuse to add them to a dish. But, what exactly are hearts of palm?

Simply put, hearts of palm are the inner core and growing bud of the palm tree. The stem of the palm tree is harvested and the bark is removed leaving a layer of white fiber around the central core. This fiber is removed leaving the center core of the heart of palm which is eaten. The fresh hearts of palm tend to be crisp and crunchy whereas the canned hearts of palm lose their crunchiness and are much softer.

Here is a great video showing the whole process of harvesting to packaging the hearts of palm.

There are various varieties of palm trees that the heart of palm is harvested from, this includes the palmito juçara, açaí palm, sabal palm, and the pejibaye. The palmito juçara used to be the most popular uncultivated (wild) palm tree that was harvested for the heart of palm. Brazil was the largest producer of this heart of palm variety until the 1990’s when there was a lot of poaching for these popular stems which resulted in the threatened extinction of the wild palmito juçara. Today Ecuador is one of the highest producers of hearts of palms together with Costa Rica. The majority of hearts of palms that you find in the supermarket now are from domesticated (farmed) palm trees.

When the stem of the palm is harvested for the inner core the palm tree dies. The most common palm trees have only one stem and when it is cut the tree has nothing remaining to keep it alive. It is because of the single stemmed palm trees that palm trees with multiple stems, such as the sabal palm and the pejibaye, were domesticated (farmed) so as to prevent the killing of the palm tree when its stems were cut for the inner core. Today, most hearts of palms come from large farms which harvest the inner core of the palm from a tree that can have up to 40 stems. The multiple stems of the domesticated palm trees prevents the killing of the tree and harvesting hearts of palm becomes much more sustainable.

In Brazil hearts of palms are called palmito. In English there are several different names, some of which I had never heard of: hearts of palm, peach palm, burglars thigh, and swamp cabbage (not sure where burglars thigh comes from, anyone know?). Hearts of palm can be used in so many different ways, my favorite ways to eat hearts of palm is to slice them and add to a salad, cut in half and stand them on a plate and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt, or to make a pie like this torta de palmito!


Papaya or Mamão? What Is It?

Mamão is a fruit of the tree Carica Papaya. Native to southern Mexico, mamão is grown in many tropical countries, with Brazil being one of the largest producers today.

The tree-like plant which the mamão grows from has a single stem that stretches from 5 to 10m (16 to 33ft) tall. The large leaves are confined to the top of the tree and fruit are produced throughout the whole year. The flowers of the tree determine the shape, amount of pulp, and flavor of the fruit that it will produce. The Carica Papaya tree has masculine, feminine, and hermaphroditic flowers. The masculine flowers produce a fruit that is pear shaped and have no commercial value. The feminine flowers produce fruit that are round and have little pulp, resulting in fruit that also has a low commercial value. The hermaphroditic flowers produce the most desired fruit, they are long with lots of juicy pulp.

What we know as papaya in the USA is actually just one variety of mamão that is found in Brazil. There are many different varieties of mamão in Brazil, ranging from small to large. Brazilians, most commonly, eat the larger mamão  variety known as mamão comprido. Although the flavor across mamão variaties must certainly change, I have not tried enough of the mamão variaties to have a good opinion on this. Instead, I will just say that no matter which mamão you decide to try it will be tasty and worth it.

Mamão is used for so many different things in Brazil and is so easy to find that it is one of those fruits that is a MUST TRY when you visit. Used in drinks, like the absolutely amazing vitamina, or desserts, or eaten just like that, it is a fruit that becomes very addicting.

The papaya that can be found in the USA is much smaller than those in Brazil, but besides that there are not many differences. The skin is green when not ripe and yellow when ripe. Soft to the touch, like an avocado, tells you that the papaya is ready to eat. The flesh is always a beautiful reddish-orange. Remove the interestingly round-black seeds and dig into this deliciously delicate fruit.

Sexagem do mamoeiro e sua aplicação na produção (http://www.ceplac.gov.br/radar/Artigos/artigo39.htm)
Wikipedia: Papaya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaya)
Wikipedia: Mamão (http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mam%C3%A3o)
Cultura – Mamão (http://www.seagri.ba.gov.br/Mamao.htm)

Tapioca Flour: What is it really?

Ever since I tried Tapioca (a type of pancake made from tapioca flour, typically found in the north of Brazil) I have been constantly thinking about tapioca flour. In Brazil there is not just one type of tapioca flour, instead there seems to be a gazillion different types (well that isn’t quite true, but it seems that way to me) and each one is used for making a specific dish or to suit different taste buds. Recently I have been thinking more about the advantages of using tapioca flour, one being that it is GLUTEN FREE, and how fun it is to bake with. The part that I like best is that tapioca flour becomes gooey (if you have tried pão de queijo you know what I mean). So, before I dive into tons of recipes that take tapioca flour I’m going to tell you a little bit about what it is and the different flours that you can find in Brazil.

Sagu or tapioca pearls image from www.wikinoticia.com/

Sagu or tapioca pearls
image from http://www.wikinoticia.com/

Tapioca flour, or manioc flour, is made from a woody shrub known as cassava, manioc, or yuca; a native shrub of South America. In Brazil, the cassava plant and the root that is commonly eaten is called “mandioca”, while the starch is called “tapioca”! The name tapioca is derived from the word tipi’oka which is the name for this starch in the Tupi language that was spoken by the natives when the Portuguese first arrived in the Northeast of Brazil. The Tupi word, tipi’oka, refers to the process by which the starch is made edible. The word has been adopted and is now used to refer to the flour in the northeast of the country. In the north and central west it is more commonly referred to as mandioca, and in the southeast and south as aipim.

Polvilho Doce image from www.mysupermarket.co.uk

Polvilho Doce
image from http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk

As I learned today from my mother-in-law and husband, tapioca flour is the primary flour that is used for baking in the northern areas of Brazil. Due to an inability to grow wheat, tapioca has been adopted as the primary flour. Breads, cakes, buns, and pancakes are all made with tapioca flour. I haven’t tried tapioca bread or cake yet, but I know that I will have to.

Brazilians use two types of tapioca flour: a fine flour that is used in cakes and cookies, and a course flour that is used for frying. Obviously, this is not where the story ends. Yes, there are two main types of tapioca flour, but the tree keeps on branching out. The fine flour, referred to as “polvilho” in Brazil has two different types, a sweet and a sour. The course flour, referred to as “farinha de mandioca” also has various types! Let me start by explaining a little bit more about “polivilho”!

Polvilho Azedo

Polvilho Azedo
image from http://www.produtosbrasileiros.co.uk

Polvilho – This is the fine-white tapioca flour. This is the basic tapioca flour you will find. In Brazil there are two different types, the sweet and the sour. So, what is the difference? Well basically one flour is more sour and the other is more sweet. Tasting them side-by-side you can really taste the difference. “Polvilho Doce”, the sweet tapioca flour is more commonly used for baking cakes or cookies. If you are baking anything sweet you will probably want to go with the sweet tapioca flour! “Polvilho Azedo” is fermented cassava pulp that is then made into flour. This flour is sour and is used in recipes like pão de queijo. More commonly used in savory recipes, the sour tapioca flour has a stronger flavor!

Farinha de Mandioca

Farinha de Mandioca
image from http://www.ibahia.com

Farinha de Mandioca – This is the course manioc flour that is used for frying and is commonly used in the side dish farofa (farinha de mandioca fried with butter, onions, bacon/jerked beef, and parsley). I still have no idea how many different varieties of this flour there are in Brazil, but it seems like a lot. Some flours are very course, others toasted for a more nutty flavor, and others have large flakes. Generally it is up to the preference of those cooking or eating the dishes made with farinha de mandioca. They all do the same thing, they just have slightly different textures and flavors!

Besides the tapioca flour you find in Brazil, Brazilians are also very fond of “sagu” or what is actually known in the USA as tapioca: the tapioca pearls. A delicious dessert “sagu” is usually made with grape juice, but you can find almost any flavor.

If you do not live in Brazil it is likely that you will not have access to the endless variety of tapioca flours that you can find here. Instead, you will be able to find the basic tapioca flour, this is probably the “polvilho doce” that we find in Brazil, but can really be used for any type of baking (pão de queijo made with polvilho doce is still a bite of heaven). Finding the “farinha de mandioca” will be much more of a challenge. I have seen it in some supermarkets in the international section, but this was only in the Boston area where there is a large Brazilian population. (Take a look at my links for ordering Brazilian Food online, there are some great places to buy farinha de mandioca!)