Imagine a Red Lobster biscuit. That’s the best I can describe the taste of pan de bono. This is a cheese bread, made with cassava flour and masa (special corn flour). If you’re a baking novice, I highly recommend it. There’s no yeast involved!
Colombia has a storied history with breads, called amasijos. Each has it’s own ingredients and preparation method. Some of these you’re familiar with: arepas and empanadas.
There’s a subsection full of amazing cheese breads as well, not just this recipe. Almojábanas, for example, are like a circular, cheesy cornbread. Brazil also has a well known cheese bread called pão de queijo. The further you go down the Colombian rabbit hole of bread, the more hungry you will get.
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Pan De Bono Recipe Tips
I’ll go through some observations I had while developing the recipe. I tried a couple times, experimenting with ratios to get what I think is right.
First, and most importantly, use masa harina! This is a special corn flour that is treated with an alkaline solution. The result has a very distinctive taste, different from regular corn flour. This corn dough is then dehydrated and sold as masa harina.
Masa is used in more than just this recipe. Tortillas, tamales, pupusas, possibly the cheesy gordita crunch from Taco Bell, even tacos! All traditionally use masa harina. So, if you want to do some more Latin American cooking, you will go through the bag pretty quick.
I think it’s better to use all cassava flour if you can’t find any masa. Don’t substitute cornmeal whatever you do. I tried that, and cornmeal makes it very grainy. Cassava flour is also called cassava starch, tapioca flour, or tapioca starch. It’s all the same thing.
This might surprise you, but we want as much cheese as possible. In a previous attempt I wimped out and did like a 2 to 1 flour to cheese ratio. In the end, I discovered pan de bono should be basically more cheese than flour.
You can get away with using just one cheese, like a queso fresco, but I think it’s better to use 2. Use one sharper cheese, like a cojita and the other should be a soft cheese. You want to grate them so they can be distributed equally.
If you can find Colombian cheeses, queso pera is great option. It’s like mozzarella, which is kind of like queso fresco. For a harder cheese, campesina is pretty good.
If you can’t find Colombian cheese, a mild feta or ricotta cheese will work in place of the queso fresco. It just needs to be soft enough to blend easily with the tapioca flour and masa.
Pan De Bono Step By Step
First, pour the cassava flour and masa flour into a large mixing bowl, or a food processor, whichever you have. Next, grate the cheese over the top. I found that a serrated knife works if you don’t have a grater. The cheeses are quite soft.
Finally, sprinkle the salt, milk, and egg in the bowl. Stir thoroughly until a sticky dough forms. It should hopefully hold it’s shape, but if not it isn’t a big deal. You will end up with a flatter bread like mine instead of the round balls you might find on Instagram.
Most importantly, grease your baking sheet! If you put the bread on aluminum foil without the grease they are impossible to get off! Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. From what I understand, cassava flour and masa don’t need to cook like normal flour does. So, if it seems like underdone dough in the middle that’s fine.
Ideas For Future Attempts
- If you want to make the pan de bono in a ball shape, I think you need to reduce the amount of moisture in the recipe. I’d bring the milk down by at least half a cup and try adding more cheese.
- Try adding diced peppers to the dough! I meant to add some jalapeno, but I wanted to do it the traditional way first. Some heat could take these to the next level.
- I want to try different kinds of cheeses. Cotija isn’t a super sharp cheese, I’m interested in what a sharp cheddar would taste like.
- Put melted butter on the top when they come out just like Red Lobster biscuits.
- Pair with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Both are common pairings with the bread in Colombia.
Pan De Bono (Colombian Cheese Bread)
- 1 cup cassava flour
- ¼ cup masa (precooked corn flour)
- 1¼ cup queso fresco (grated)
- ¾ cup cotija cheese (grated)
- 1½ tsp salt
- 1¼ cup whole milk
- 1 egg (beaten)
- Combine all the ingredients in either a large mixing bowl or a food processor. Mix thoroughly until dough is formed.
- Grease a baking sheet and scoop out balls of dough onto sheet. Dough will be sticky but should hold a shape.
- Bake in oven at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. The tops of the bread should be golden brown. Take out and serve while hot!
For more Colombian recipes, check out my fellow #EatTheWorld members! Every month a new country is chosen for everyone to cook. Click here to learn how to join us!Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Bollos de Mazorca (Steamed Fresh Corn Rolls)
Sneha’s Recipe: Colombian Arroz Atollado
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Cañón de Cerdo (Colombia-Style Pork Loin Roast)
Pandemonium Noshery: Bandeja Paisa – Colombian Platter
Rebekah Rose: Arepas Con Carne
Sugarlovespices: Aguacate Relleno (Stuffed Avocado with Smoked Salmon and Egg)
Kitchen Frau: Pan de Yuca (Warm Cheesy Buns)
A Day in the LIfe on the Farm: Arroz Atollado