cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ice Cream Sequilhos

and a word on the São Paulo Countryside

The first time i tried to make corn tortillas here i went to the grocery market and stood in the "flour" aisle staring at the mountain of packaged powders. Wheat flour sits on the bottom shelfs packaged in its dusty little paper sack. As your eyes move up the shelf the packaging becomes a little fancier. There are tapioca and corn flours in every form imaginable. Why are there so many names for the same thing? Literally dozens of different "types" based on the size of the grind and what it is generally used for. Ok, i thought, i need corn flour, so something with milho (corn). I see flakes, nope, polenta, nope, hey this has milho in the title--amido de milho, perfect! When i got home and added the hot water to the amido de milho, to make tortillas, to my horror the whole thing turned into a pot of sticky liquid. What? I looked at the bag, i rubbed the remaining powder in the bag between my fingers, well it feels like tapioca, and tapioca usually feels like--crap. corn starch. Reminds me of when i washed my clothes in fabric softener during my whole first week in France.

At least i know what corn starch is now. I have since learned that the corn flour closest to what i need for tortillas is called fuba. Why the hell is corn flour called fuba? I never thought about corn as a top Brasilian food, I always left that one to Mexico and the rest of Latin America. But the truth is, corn has a large spot in the Brasilian diet; it's everywhere! This week i made corn tortillas with salsa, then some roasted tomato polenta, corn on the cob and now of course our feature presentation: corn starch cookies known as sequilhos made into ice cream sandwiches with corn ice cream. I hope to round the corn week off with fried polenta at Grandpa's bar (actually the name of the bar) this friday with a few caipirinhas. hint...hint....

Sequilhos are one of my favorite cookies in Brasil, probably because they are one of the only commercially made gluten free cookies, but that's beside the point. These crunchy, powdery fall-apart cookies are a Brasilian tradition, every body knows em' and you can find them in just about any confectionery or bakery shop. Usually they are quite small, the size and shape of a quarter dollar, a small square, or bent horse shoe. They cost pennies and usually make the front of whatever you happen to be wearing snow white. This is why i love to eat them in the car. Though they are a litle more genuine when coming from a bakery, you can also find them commercially made in the candy/cookie aisle of any grocery store in a large biscuit bag. As they are made of corn starch, they fall apart the second they hit liquid. Particularly fun to dip in hot tea and have it fall all over your lap.

I meant to post about these a few weeks ago when i made them for the first time, but a few things got in the way. What i mean is, my motivation was stolen by Power Ranger Azul, and i also viewed them a bit dull to post about all on their own. Last sunday was my ticket to ride, but then the floors needed to be cleaned. Then Tuesday for Independence day, but it rained. Then i talked to my mom last night about being woe-full and ready to give up photography for something practical, but then she quickly snapped me from it. Then finally today ice cream came to mind. But, then where's the story?

(the cowboy boots above are a product of my bad neighbor-stalking habit. so no we are not hicks.)

A few weeks ago when our friends C & L came to stay the weekend, we went out for quite a few ice creams. En route our guests were fascinated and enchanted by the layout of the town. I've never heard so much praise about our little city before, and from an American at that! The primary astonishment was the fact that this was Brasil. Brasil is a gigantor of a country, and probably the most diverse in every aspect of life from state to state. C had never visited the São Paulo countryside before. She'd been to most of the capitals; Rio, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte as well as the extreme no-wheres in the interior of Mato Grosso state. Ergo the most and least metoropolitan in Brasil, but never the middle. This could almost be somewhere in the US she observed quite a few times. Cute streets, neighborhoods, planned city development, parks, public recreation areas, green spaces, first Brasilian city to be one hundred percent on treated sewers, clean and kept sidewalks, small businesses, beautiful residential areas, a relatively unfrightened and trusting public accompanied by large commercial and work centers in cities but a few minutes away. Their astonishment reminded me that most people, one year ago me included, haven't a clue that places like the São Paulo countryside cities exist. Well, they do. And though they have no beach, they are rated for having the highest quality of life standard of any region in Brazil. Go us.

We live in the city of Indaiatuba (meaning land of palm trees, or something like that). If there was no such thing as traffic, we can technically consider ourselves about 45 minutes north west of São Paulo city. To the north of Indaiatuba is a series of other small cities of the same caliber leading up to São Paulo's second largest city, Campinas. One thing about the countryside cities is that you can breath. The other thing is that there can be a Toyota factory next door to miles and miles of grazing cattle and farmland. The city is quiet, i hear my birds and neighbors talking in the streets all day with kids running around with kites and calling out games to each other. Though the city is bigger than the Seattle burb of Poulsbo where i grew up, it still manages to be a community where you run into people you know all the time. At the park, the grocery store, post office--yes Mr. Rogers was here too.

Aside from Indaiatuba, my favorite cities include the neighboring Valinhos and Vinhedo with their beautiful residential areas, and to my Editor's great surprise, Itupeva, an upstart city that still seems to be covered by quite a bit of vegetation (ok this is really countryside) yet is as beautiful as any fairytale story book with a dumpy little downtown. Valinhos also happens to be the nation's fig capital, and apparently there is a fig festival every year. We will definitely be dragging the fig-hating Editor to that one. When we took C & L to the airport (to São Paulo city), we drove through the Itupeva country side. Vineyards, grazing sheep, rock valleys, orange tree groves, old men on bicycles, chickens running about, large mansions, small huts, winding roadways flanked by bright colorful vegetation--all this with the setting sun. If she wasn't on her way to Canada i'm sure she would have moved in right then. Seeing other people's reactions to this place makes me extremely grateful to live here, the unknown part of Brasil, one of the many many other unknown parts of Brasil. When you get here, Brasil will surprise you. I promise.

And so the ice cream. There are a lot of great ice cream shops here in Brasil with classic flavors you may like and a few more that you may be afraid of. One of my favorite flavors in Brasil is corn. There's that corn again. Corn is treated as a sweet quite frequently in Brasil; corn juice, corn cakes and cookies- and of course ice cream. Though odd to American taste buds (yeah i tried making it for my family, was not a very big hit) it is a popular flavor in most of South America, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. You can find it anywhere; in the super market, ice cream shops, corn shops (for serious) and it is very rewarding to make on your own. However, i still prefer my very first taste of corn ice cream in Brasil: at the highway-side stop off known as the Corn Castle. Soft-serve in a cup prepared for you by under enthusiastic teenage women who can't believe they work in a place called the Corn Castle. It is the only road-side stop worth getting off the highway for. There is even a corn playground for the kids! The flavor grows on you, and after a while it seems more refreshing than most flavors.

This recipe for sequilhos is slightly different than traditional recipes--i needed them to be a little softer and cake-like so that they can be bit into double layered and not squeeze ice cream everywhere. So this recipe has an added 1/4 cup of medium grind corn meal to soften the cake. Leave out the corn meal if you want it crisper. These are also about 5X the size of usual sequilhos, a cookie is a cookie right? Roll them into small balls about the size of a grape for traditional sequilhos.

Ingredients: 400 g corn starch, 1/4 cup corn meal (fuba), 1/2 can of condensed milk, 1 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 beaten eggs, 2 tbsp sugar.

Method: 1) mix together the starch, corn meal, sugar and baking powder. 2) Add the condensed milk, eggs and butter. 3) Mix until combined. You will have to use your hands as it is thick. If you want to flavor the sequilhos, add extracts, shredded coconut or even fruit puree. 4) roll small ball and press flat with a fork. 5) bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to make corn ice cream, i have posted the recipe already here at Salty, please go here for it.

So a sunny day in the almost-summer of the São Paulo countryside; on tuesday it rained for the first time in three months and washed the sky clear. Never before had i ever wanted it to rain so badly. Today is quite warm, making shooting ice cream extremely difficult as i enjoy using my new 8gb memory card to its fullest, however, melted puddles are not attractive. September is so different on the bottom half of the globe. But i miss the leaves and the Fall. But summer time birds and pink flowered trees, well it's a good substitute. Until then,

a bientôt

oh and ps. hi Sierra and yes i will make you these cookies next year.


shelle said...

LOVE your pictures, and can't wait to try sequilhos. I've probably seen them, but haven't tried them yet. You're from Poulsbo? My husband and I spent an anniversary there a few years back...I'm from Cashmere, WA...funny how me "meet" I've gotta go get a bowl of ice cream!

latergater said...

Glad to have "inspired" you !

Your biggest fan,

Koci said...

These look so light and fluffy. Yum! All your photos are incredibly gorgeous, too. :)

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

I'm not a huge fan of sequillos byt your make it look so beautiful. Now I'm off to the padaria to find some.

Mallory Elise said...

Damaris, i find them extremely boring when plain, but dipped in yogurt or sandwiched over ice cream fom mini-sandwiches they are perfect! in less than 10 hours after making them they were all gone from the freezer ;)

Unknown said...

I just wanted to know why Sierra got a shout-out and the end of the post and F did not...hehe

I miss all your baking goodies mal! Seems like things are going well for you though :D

Brynn said...

One of my favorite afternoon treats is café com leite and bolo de fuba.

Btw, your photos are always beautiful. You absolutely need to stay with it.

Sierra said...

Fa mulan- that is because i complain to her constantly about not being in any of her posts anymore and how sad it is.....that and last week i got all sappy and sad after re-reading the gossip girl post and others about us all haha

Mal- can't wait to try them :)

Mallory Elise said...

:P yay fight F and S! it can be almost as good as the epic buying toilet paper or turning on the heater fight!

Brynn--i love bolos de fuba but usually only when my sogra makes them because the bakeries mix the fuba with wheat flour.she makes it better homemade anyways, and she has done bolo de mandioca starting with the manioca root for me! :)

Nani said...

OMG, eu amo sequilhos!!! What a great idea to put ice cream in between them! It's just simply yummy!

El said...

These look lovely. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

Anonymous said...

This is the second time I've read about the corn ice cream, and I am dying to try it.

Your photos are beautiful, and even though I'm a terrible and unimaginative cook, you're inspiring me to try some new things. Mexican food is high on my list!


Anonymous said...

I went through the same flour thing when I was trying to figure out how to make pão de queijo, except it wasn't a case of having a range of flour options - the recipe called for flour made from corn, except not cornflour because cornflour and corn starch are the same thing here in Australia (so I made the pão de queijo with cornstarch and wondered why they turned out horribly). I eventually found maize flour in an obscure little health food shop and I used that along with tapioca starch to make the pão de queijo. No idea if they're anything like what they're supposed to be, but they were delicious all the same.

Hopefully the maize flour I get is equivalent enough to the fuba for me to be able to make sequilhos because they look delicious. :)

Heather Ozee said...

Fantastic photos!

Unknown said...

This is the kind of ice cream sandwich I can get behind! I've never been happy with homemade corn ice cream but I do really like it when it turns out nicely, not to mention sweet corn baked goods. Nom.

Glória Paiva said...

Hello, Mallory! Just writing to tell you that you´ve got a new reader. It is so great to see your impressions about our (Brazilian) ingredients and habits. Make us remember how special a few things are. If you can read Portuguese, make me a visit at - I also write on food and travel. Beijos from Belo Horizonte!

Glória Paiva said...

Hi, Mallory! Thanks for you comment at my little place. :) Do you live in Campinas or Indaiatuba? You made such beautiful pictures.
Oh, and yes, I love spices and I grew (is that correct?) some in my apartment. Cebolinha, salsa, hortelã (peppermint), manjericão (basil) and others fit very well in our food.
Sure we can arrange a bloggers meeting when you come to BH! Actually as a 'foodie' you definately MUST come to taste one of Brazil´s most famous food. Keep in touch! I´m following you at twitter. Beijos!

Laurie said...

Corn ice cream! Wow, these cookies look good and your photos are beautiful!

The Breakfast Lover said...

Every little thing in you blog looks lovely, i dindnt know this combination for ice cream! looks good!

miss mallory opel said...

I've been meaning to comment on this post, I love pictures (particularly the cowboy book neighbor stalking). These cookies are absolutely new to me, but they look quite delicious, can't wait to give them a try!

- Mallory

Taylor said...

such beautiful photos! These look totally delicious! I want one now!