By Sarah-Lee Richardson
By Sarah-Lee Richardson
Made from the yuca root, chewy yuca bread is much loved in many parts of the world.
The yuca root is a long, unassuming tuber. It looks a little like a sweet potato – only longer, harder and with a dark, rough skin outside and a smooth, white flesh inside. Yuca is a staple in most African, Central and South American countries and also in some Asian countries. Depending on the country, yuca (pronounced yoo-ka) is also called manioc, cassava or tapioca root.
Although it’s most often fried into small, circular chips or french fries and eaten as a salty snack, yuca can also be ground, dried and milled into flour or turned into a starch to produce breads, pastas and desserts.
In South America, yuca is most popular in ‘pan de yuca’ or yuca bread. These small, puck-shaped mini breads look more like smooth, flat rolls. They are chewy and, depending on the region, are sometimes filled with a soft, bland or salty cheese which tastes like feta. They are normally eaten with coffee or yogurt as a snack, but sometimes can be eaten with jam or hot chocolate.
Claudia Sanchez, a Colombian-Canadian who lived in Toronto for a short while, says there were only a few bakeries and restaurants in the city where she could find ‘pan de yuca.’
“It was great, it’s like a little taste of your country,” she said. “Especially at Christmastime we tried to get pan de yuca and all the typical food from home. You feel like you’re at home – at least for a minute.”
Yuca-based products are popular not only with ethnic populations, but also amongst those with celiac disease. The gluten their bodies cannot absorb is found in wheat, rye, triticale, barley and oats. It is not, however, found in yuca. Many large food manufacturers are not marketing gluten-free products because they believe the market to be too small. But according to the Celiac Association of Canada, one in 133 Canadians suffer from the disease.
Using yuca flour to partially replace wheat in recipes can also cut costs. The Federation of Agriculture Organization (FAO) produced a study in 1997 that reported small bakeries that substituted yuca flour at 35 per cent of the wheat flour in sweet dough biscuits that contained 0.5 kg of wheat flour per kilo of biscuits achieved a cost savings of 32 per cent.
Pan de Yuca (Yuca Bread)
Yuca starch – 12 lbs.
Soft, white cheese – 5 lbs.
Eggs – 15
Butter – 250 g
Baking powder – 8 g
Milk – 5 oz.
Hot water – 2 oz.
Grated soft, white cheese – 2 lbs.
1. Grate cheese in a bowl then add butter, eggs, milk and hot water; mix well.
2. Slowly add the yuca starch, stirring well in between additions. Once dough is formed, knead well.
3. Divide dough into small pieces: should be the shape and size of an egg.
4. Poke hole into middle of dough and stuff with a small portion of grated cheese; pinch the hole closed.
5. Bake at 325ºF for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly golden.
Recipe from Jorge and Carlos Cedeo’s Mazy Yuca Cafeteria in Quito.