Spring-loaded bread gives breakfastbounce

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Gluten sounds gluey, and frankly it is. It's the stuff that makes bread dough elastic and baked bread delightful.

These days the fashionable eschew gluten, in solidarity with those encumbered by that condition that sounds like celery.

We like gluten. We like bread. We even like celery. We dislike any trend that vilifies food. But the gluten-free craze yields some upside and that upside is pandebono.

Something called (more or less) "good bread" sounds good. And it is. It's a tender little puff of cheese bread popular in Colombia for breakfast. It gets its soft spring not from wheat but from cassava.

Cassava root looks like a potato and, once stripped of cyanide, feeds much of the warm-weather world. It's also one of Earth's leading sources of boing.

Stewed, cassava cooks up into a sticky porridge. Powdered into tapioca, it thickens pie. Rolled into pearls, it bounces through bubble tea. Pounded and baked into cake, it wiggles. Where there's cassava, there's resilience. Fitting for a plant that thrives in drought.

Bread baked from cassava offers a chewy chomp and big boing. Which is good news to those who miss gluten's gluey goodness. And to the rest of us, who have a new — and buoyant — way to start the day.

Pandebono

Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 10 minutes
Makes: 20 small rolls

Ingredients:
12 ounces queso fresco (fresh Mexican cheese)*
½ cup yuca flour (aka cassava flour, tapioca flour, tapioca starch or manioc starch)*
2 tablespoons precooked white cornmeal (aka arepas flour)*
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
Vegetable oil, for baking sheets

Grate: Break cheese into 3 or 4 chunks. Drop into the food processor and buzz to bits.

Mix:
Add yuca flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt. Buzz to mix. Add egg. Process a full 2 minutes; dough will form a ball — just keep going. Dough will be very soft. Let rest 10 minutes.

Roll:
Divide dough and roll into 20 balls. Set 10 balls on each of two lightly oiled baking sheets. Press each ball gently into the pan, forming a dome shape.

Bake:
Slide pans into a 400-degree oven and bake until puffed, golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Breads should still be soft on top (even a bit bouncy) when pressed. Enjoy hot with coffee or hot chocolate.

Provenance:
Adapted from cookingcolombia.com

*Don't worry. These ingredients may sound exotic, but they are readily available at the supermarket or Latin American specialty market.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.
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