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Cuñape


"Cuñape" is the best cheeseballs in the world, and it’s from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. These gooey and addictive cheese balls are similar to the Brazilian "pão de queijo" or the French "gougères" or the Colombian "pandebono" but all of these are different from each other as well. Gougères are lighter and more airy while the Brazilian ones are chewier but drier on the outside. I would say the pandebonos are closest in taste and texture to the Bolivian cuñape but it is slight more bready.

In Bolivia, we use mennonite cheese (farmer's cheese) for this recipe and honestly without that cheese it will never be exactly like the original but you do what you can. I've been hunting down a similar cheese in the U.S. for ages but the closest I can get to it is to use the queso blanco or fresco and add some more salt (or even mix some feta into it).

The history of the cuñape is very interesting. It is a Guaraní word that means "a woman's breast" because when they bake, they form a little peak in the center. To get this "peak" you must insert your thumb into the bottom of the ball creating a little hole before putting it downward on that hole on the baking pan for the oven. If you don't do this, the cuñape can end up looking very flat when you take it out of the oven. Since baking powder is traditionally not used in making these, this "hole" step is really important for the right shape.

Ingredients:
1 Cup Yucca Starch (you can get these in latin mkts, also known as Tapioca Starch or Manioc Starch)
1 Round (3 cups) of Mexican cheese like Queso Fresco (or a mixture of fresco and feta)
1 egg
SALT, Water, and milk, as needed (use more salt if you're only using queso fresco, which isn't as salty)

Cuñape
1 taza de almidón de yuca
3 tazas de queso fresco
1 huevo
Leche o agua si es necesario (si está muy seco)
Instructions

Preheat oven to 305 degrees.
Crumble the cheese into a big mixing bowl (it should crumble easily) and add the yucca starch and egg and a pinch of salt. Knead it with your hands until you have a dough-like consistency. At this point, if it's too dry, you can add some milk or water.

Make them into little balls and insert your thumb into the bottom to make a hole in the bottom (this helps create that peak I talked about above). 
Place them on top of a non stick pan or a floured pan. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
Place them in the oven between 15-20 minutes.
Do one batch first. If it comes out too cheesy, then add more starch.

Spanish instructions:
Rayar el queso, mezclar con el almidón de yuca y agregar el huevo batido. La consistencia debe ser blanda haga unas bolitas haciéndoles un pequeño hueco con el dedo por debajo y póngalas en una bandeja para hornear. Deje quince minutos. Ponga en horno caliente por 20 mins. 
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