Brazilian cheese tartlets
In Brazil, they're called 'quejadinhas.' Here, they're called 'amazing.'
There's an old cookbook, called "Comer Bem," or "Eat Well," written by a possibly fictitious person named Dona Benta. It was the "Joy of Cooking" of the Brazilian home when I lived there, 40 years ago. Like "Joy," it provides recipes but also teaches measurements, temperatures, substitutions and menus.
It's meant to be the manual of the beginner cook, leaning gently onto fine recipes. And like "Joy," most homes had a copy of it on a kitchen shelf. For all I know, it's still sold in updated editions. My well-worn copy was published in 1969.
Looking at it four decades later, I enjoyed the casual instructions ("add enough flour to make a dough you can roll out") and found something interesting to serve with an eggplant soup I was planning to make that night: quejadinhas. A crisp, delicate pastry crust containing a savory cheese filling, devoured while still warm. Overcome by a wave of nostalgia – I've eaten plenty of quejadinhas in my time – I had to make them.
- 1/3 cup hard cheese, grated. Parmesan is good; I use a local Kashkeval.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons flour (See note in directions)
- 150 grams (just under 1 cup) grated cheese (can be sharp and dry, like Parmesan, or heavier and milder, like Gouda)
- 1 cup milk
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- More grated cheese for sprinkling on top (if using a sharp, dry, light cheese, 4 tablespoons will do)
Preheat oven to 400° F.
To make the pastry shells:
Mix the cheese, butter, milk and salt in a medium bowl.
Add the flour, by tablespoons. I initially tried to measure into cups – it came out to 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup of flour. See what I mean? Easier to just keep track of the spoonfuls as you measure. Mix occasionally till you obtain a soft, pliable dough that holds its shape. It may take more or less than the 12 tablespoons. You don't want a stiff dough like for bread, rather a tender paste.
Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface or a sheet of baking paper. Stretch it out with the rolling pin till it's 1/4 inches thin.
Cut out circles. I used a tuna-can ring, but realized that the resulting circle would be too small, so I just rolled each circle again to make it 4 inches (10 centimeters) wide.
You can re-roll the unused parts to make new circles. Once you have your 12 circles, save any extra pastry to fix tears or build up shells that look low in the muffin tin.
To make the filling:
Just mix it all up together.
Line the greased muffin molds with the pastry circles. They are now shells.
Fill each shell up to halfway with the cheese/milk/egg mixture.
Sprinkle a little more grated cheese over each filled shell.
Pop into the hot oven and bake for 18-25 minutes or until the tartlets are golden-brown.
Allow them to cool in the muffin tin and remove carefully.
They may be frozen and reheated in a hot oven for a few minutes. Best served warm, with cold white wine or beer.