Tapioca starch is a very popular ingredient in Brazil, where it is often substituted in recipes that would otherwise call for wheat flour. The result is that many of Brazil’s “breads” are naturally gluten free, while still offering a similar chewy texture and satisfying taste. The famous Brazilian cheese bread, for example, is made using cassava/tapioca flour and just a few other simple ingredients.
Another favorite snack food in Brazil that utilizes tapioca starch is the biscoito de polvilho, which translates to “tapioca flour cookie.” Although they lack the sweetness of an American cookie, they are crisp and somewhat wafer-like when fried. They are also traditionally round in shape and very popular paired with coffee, similar to the way you might dunk a cookie or a donut in the US.
Biscoito de Polvilho Origins
The exact origin of the biscoito de polvilho is not known. However, most historians agree that it probably originated during the colonial period in and around the mining state of Minas Gerais. The breadsticks were likely served with cheese and coffee as a snack in the afternoons.
Today, most regions have a version of the biscoito de polvilho. The size, shape, and flavors vary greatly depending on local preferences. Some are stick or peanut shaped, for example. Others are seasoned with various herbs and fillings (like our recipe, which calls for asiago cheese and fresh rosemary).
Can You Buy Pre-Made Tapioca Breadsticks?
Yes, packaged biscoito de polvilho are available online and locally in many Brazilian supermarkets. But they are so simple to make, it is probably more convenient to just bake up your own batch. They will not only be fresher, but you can also customize them to suit your own tastes and dietary needs.
Are Brazilian Breadsticks Dairy Free?
Traditional biscoitos de polvilho require both eggs and whole milk. However, you can make a vegan version using nut or soy milk and vegan egg powder substitutes, like this one. The texture will be slightly different, of course, but the result should still be delicious.
Brazilian Bread Sticks Recipe (Biscoito de Polvilho)
Yield: approximately 10 breadsticks
16 oz tapioca starch
1.5 oz grated asiago cheese
2 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 large egg
2 oz milk (preferably whole, but you can use skim or 2%)
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp chopped, fresh rosemary
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine the tapioca starch and grated asiago in a large mixing bowl.
- Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add the milk, olive oil, rosemary, and salt. Bring to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat.
- Pour the liquid mixture over your combined tapioca starch and cheese. Mix all the ingredients until they are thoroughly combined.
- Once the dough looks uniform, stir in the egg (you may find that combining the dough is easier just using your hands).
- Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
- Scoop about 2 tablespoons of the dough out with your hands (you can oil your hands lightly if the dough is too sticky). Roll the dough into a ball. Then, on a flat surface, roll the ball into a stick about 4 inches long. Join the two ends of the stick to form a round circle. Place on the lined baking sheet.
- Repeat this process until you have used all your dough. The rounds should have at least 1 inch of space in between to cook properly.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the breadsticks are golden brown (abou fifteen minutes).
Serve your biscoito de polvilho warm with fresh coffee or a glass of Brazilian lemonade.
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