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Cristina "Kika" Arantes instructs us to hold our nose as we repeat after her: "pão de queijo." The nasal tone of the Portuguese for "Brazilian cheese bread" may be difficult for Americans to master, but this Brazilian snack is easy to love. It looks like a small roll, until you break the crust and cheesy deliciousness oozes out.
Arantes is known for her chocolate-covered cookies and Brazilian honey cakes. She branches out with savory fare once a year, for La Cocina's San Francisco Street Food Festival. Last year people went crazy for her pão de queijo, and this year she's upping the ante by making all the bread onsite and serving it with a tomato jam.
Pão de queijo originates from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, and Arantes suspects that it developed from French influence in the region; the dough is very similar to pâte à choux dough used for French pastries like éclairs. Arantes says the hardest part of developing the snack was recreating the flavor of hard-to-find Brazilian minas cheese, but she eventually landed on a combination of cotija and parmesan that hearkened back to the pão de queijo she grew up on in São Paulo.
San Francisco Street Food Festival: Aug. 18 , 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Folsom between 20th and 26th Sts.; www.sfstreetfoodfest.com.
The festival will feature more than 75 food and drink vendors spanning the globe. Stop by the Kika's Treats booth for pão de queijo, spiced Brazilian hot chocolate, and Arantes' famous s'mores — homemade marshmallows freshly toasted and sandwiched between her chocolate-covered caramelized graham crackers. We hear that she's even considering a frozen pão de queijo option that could be ordered online after the festival. Our fingers are crossed.