“Please, please, pleeeezze… can we name him Dinky?”
“Please, I’ll make you omelettes every single day for a week” – obviously the stakes are high if I’m willing to do that much!
The stakes are high – my brother Arvind has just come home with a dog and the debate about naming him is flying hot and furious!
I lose. The dog is named Tommy. Tommy? Really? I mean how much more disappointing could you get? I trail off- disconsolately…
A few weeks later ( almost a lifetime in a ten-year old’s life and I have gotten used to Tommy!), a new baby is born in our home – my youngest cousin. She is an object of great curiosity as soon as she comes but the interest palls soon enough – all she does is sleep – or feed – or wail! Tommy is far more interesting! Then about a couple of weeks after we’ve had time to get used to the baby, there is a namakaranam – a naming ceremony. My hopes rise again – ah, here’s yet another opportunity!
The day dawns, many pujaris come, much chanting happens and then the pujari pauses. Takes a minute to announce to everyone present – all the grandparents, uncles, aunts and parents of the baby that they can suggest names for the baby. Someone has the bright idea of passing around bits of paper for suggestions. I am more than hopeful now – I am totally thrilled – my choice is sure to be the best! After all, I have a perfectly fantastic name, why waste it – if it’s not being used on a dog, it might as well be used for a baby!
So I write down my choice, fold up the peice of paper carefully and put it in the box being passed aound. The pujari collects everything, opens the bits of folded paper, puts some aside, scratches his head over others and looks puzzled. I wait with bated breath.
He picks up one piece and opens it. With the true sense of drama that all good pujaris possess, he pauses, gets everyone’s attention before announcing grandly, “Srividya is the name the baby is to be known by.”
I stalk out in total disgust – these guys don’t know a good name when they see one. Choosing “Srividya” over “Dinky“???!
Then a couple of days ago in Cincinnati, I come across a new dish – yet another one in this extraordinarily interesting land called America! I fell in love with it at first sight, became totally besotted with it at first bite and then inspiration struck – I could name this new dish!
I ask my friend what this thing is called – she says it’s a South American delicacy called a “Pao de Queijo” – i hereby rechristen this simple delicious little cheese breads “Dinky”!
DINKIES aka PAO DE QUEIJOS (recipe courtesy www.kitchn.com)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (10 ounces) tapioca flour or sour cassava flour
1 – 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
Standing mixer with paddle attachment (or mixing bowl and elbow grease)
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking pan with parchment and set aside.
1. Boil the Milk and Oil: Combine the milk, oil, and salt in the saucepan, and whisking occasionally, bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from heat as soon as you see big bubbles coming through the milk.
2. Add the Tapioca Flour: Add all of the tapioca flour to the saucepan and stir until you see no more dry tapioca flour. The dough will be grainy and gelatinous at this point.
3. Cool the Dough: Transfer the dough to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Alternatively, you can do the next few steps by hand. Be prepared for a work-out.) Beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed until it smooths out and has cooled enough that you can hold your finger against the dough for several seconds.
4. Beat in the Eggs: Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. With the mixer on medium, beat the eggs into the dough in two additions. Wait until the first addition has been fully incorporated into the dough before adding the second. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5. Beat in the Cheese: With the mixer on medium, beat in the cheese until fully incorporated. The resulting dough will be very sticky, stretchy, and soft with a consistency between cake batter and cooke dough.
6. Portion the Puffs: Using an ice cream scoop, a tablespoon measure, or a dinner spoon, scoop rounded portions of the dough into mounds on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Space the mounds an inch or two apart. Dip your scoop in water to prevent sticking.
7. Bake the Puffs: Transfer the sheet with the puffs to the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 350°F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the puffs have puffed, the outsides are dry, and they are just starting to color. Cool briefly and eat. Leftover puffs can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week and re-crisped in a warm oven or toaster oven.