November 27, 2007
In 1999, Cristina Talacko travelled 12,000 kilometres on what seemed like a mad quest to bring a machine that would help her make Brazilian cheesebread snacks, or pao de queijo, to her new home in Australia. "I left two small children at home and went back to Brazil to buy a machine. I'm a corporate lawyer, I know nothing about machines but I was determined to come back with one."
This was more than just a craving. For years Talacko had whipped up batches of pao de queijo for friends. "They're a little like a savoury choux pastry but much, much nicer, with a really pleasant texture," she says. Made from fermented cassava flour, they are wheat and gluten free, about the size of a golf ball, with a smooth shell of brown crust and slightly chewy inside. "Once tasted, no one has ever stopped at one," she says. "In Brazil, pao de queijo has been around for centuries but became popular in the past 40 or so years and is often eaten with coffee. Small coffee shops specialising in pao de queijo are everywhere throughout Brazil; some even have a special injecting process that punctures the surface of the golf ball-sized bread to add sour cream or chilli. I was crazy, I guess, but I simply wanted to bring them here to Australia."
In Brazil she visited cheesebread factories who were surprisingly helpful. "They saw I would be no competition to them," says Talacko. She eventually settled on a machine that portions out dough into small rounds.
"It cost $US10,000 [$11,200] and almost as much again to transport," she says. Her husband Martin, a former marketing research analyst, says assembling all the parts when it arrived was "easier than Ikea but then we found the real problem was getting the right dough. What we were working with was too sloppy. We tried everything and then had to bring someone out from Brazil to help us perfect the mix: what sort of cheese to use, how much flour for Sydney's humidity, the pH of the water, and lots more."
Once the dough problem was solved, there was then the matter of selling the bread. Cristina says she often stood in supermarkets handing out samples. "My family back home were horrified. 'Why was a lawyer working in a factory and demonstrating in a supermarket?' I really did get grief," she laughs. Years later, SalDoce markets ready-baked cheesebreads as well as a cheesebread mix. Frevos cheesebread is available at many delicatessens, IGAs, health-food shops and fruit markets and costs around $5 for a pack of 20.
SalDoce Fine Foods, email@example.com or see www.saldoce.com.au
Author Maeve O'Meara presents Food Safari Series 2 on SBS from Wednesday, December 5 (7.30pm). Featured cuisines are: Japanese, French, Indonesian, Pakistani, Croatian, Maltese, Hungarian, Singaporean, Sri Lankan, Brazilian, Korean and Mauritian.
Read the full article here: THE AGE