Cassava – also known as manioc or yuka – is a root vegetable native to South America and used widely across the world.
Cassava can either be cooked from fresh in the same way as potato (steamed, fried, mashed, roasted) or turned into a flour, which is also called tapioca. Yes, that’s the same tapioca found in the classic school dinner pud.
What is cassava flour?
To make cassava flour, the root is ground to a pulp then squeezed. Traditionally, the wet cassava pulp is fed into a long straw ‘sock’, which is twisted tightly at one end to push out the pulp’s liquid. This starch-rich liquid is the base of cassava flour, or tapioca.
The key difference between sweet and sour cassava flour is fermentation. Sweet cassava flour (polvilho dulce) is made by simply allowing the starchy liquid to settle before pouring off the excess water. The remaining starch is dried to leave a fine powder similar in texture to cornflour.
To make sour cassava flour (polvilho azedo), the liquid is fermented before it’s dried. This gives the remaining starchy flour a distinctive tangy flavour and also means the flour behaves slightly differently when cooked.
How to make pao de queijo with cassava flour
A staple of Brazillian cooking, pao de queijo is a small cheese bread often eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. The main ingredient in these popular breads is cassava flour, which creates the signature textures.
“Best fresh from the oven, pao de queijo is loved throughout Brazil. The cheesy flavour, crunchy outside and soft, sticky middle make a great companion to morning coffee... or at any time of day.”
Chef Andre Queiroz, from brazilianchef.co.uk