Biscoitos de Maizena are a popular Brazilian cookie that melt in your mouth. Unlike most cookies, these cookies use cornstarch as its primary ingredient.
“Biscoitos de maizena” literally translates as “cornstarch cookies”.
You can make this recipe two ways, with or without coconut. Not all recipes call for coconut, but most do and it is a very popular version.
However, if you do not have coconut on hand, like I didn’t, don’t worry about it. The Biscoitos de Maizena will still be delicious.
However, instead of having a coconut flavor to them, they will simply taste like a sweet cookie.
While cornstarch, otherwise known as cornflour, is the main ingredient, the recipe also calls for flour. Flour in this case helps stabilize the cornstarch so it becomes more cookie-like.
If you want to leave it out to make it gluten free, you can, but replace it with an egg. If you don’t, you just will be eating sweetened cornstarch, and trust me, you don’t want that texture in your mouth.
Surprisingly, most, if not all of the Brazilian recipes I read, called for margarine and not butter. Since I avoid margarine whenever I can help it, my recipe calls for oil instead.
If you’d like to use butter, use one cup of butter instead of a three quarters cup of oil.
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what you need
TO CHILL OR NOT TO CHILL?
Oil cookies do not need to be chilled. I’ve tried chilling them as well as putting them directly into the oven.
I haven’t found that chilling made any difference whatsoever.
BAKING WITH OIL
In general, oil in baked goods makes for a superior texture than those made with butter.
Oil cakes tend to bake up taller with a better crumb. They also stay moist and tender far longer than recipes made with butter.
Furthermore, since oil is lighter than butter, the texture of oil cakes is lighter too.
Also, given that oil is 100% fat while most American butter is 15% water, it creates a more tender crumb.
This is due to the fact that the extra water strengthens the gluten, resulting in a crumb that’s more dense.
Which Type Of Oil to Use
I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil. However, it’s not unheard of for oils with stronger flavors like olive oil or coconut oil to be used.
If using olive oil, I recommend using pure olive oil for its milder flavor and higher smoking point.
Baking with Oil Conversion Chart
If you want to convert your butter recipes to oil recipes, check out my baking with oil butter to oil conversion chart.
HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR AND OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS
Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ingredients from the bag or spoon them into the cup.
Next, level off the ingredient by removing the excess with an upside-down butter knife.
The one exception to this is brown sugar. Brown sugar should be packed down and then any excess should be scraped off as well.
DRY VS LIQUID MEASURING CUP
Ever wonder why measuring spoons often come with a set of measuring cups? I used to. I didn’t see why we needed a set when we could have one large measuring cup.
After a quick search, I had my answer. I discovered that the large measuring cup is used for liquids, whereas the set is used for dry ingredients.
As it turns out, if you try to measure dry ingredients with a liquid cup, the measurements get messed up.
First, you pour the flour or cocoa in, next you shake it around to get it level, and then you add more.
By shaking it, you are causing the powder to settle, and when you add more, you end up using more than called for.
WHY SIFT FLOUR and Other Powder Ingredients
There are a number of benefits to sifting flour and other ingredients like cocoa ingredients:
It removes any unwanted debris and you can get a more accurate measurement than when packed tightly in a bag.
It also removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.
If you sift the powdered ingredients together, it helps combine them and mix more evenly with other dry ingredients like sugar.
Sugar may seem very basic if you’ve baked before, but I’ve been asked about it before, so I’m explaining.
There are many different types of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, and demerara sugar.
When a recipe – any recipe, not just mine – says “sugar” without specifying anything else, it is regular white sugar.
White sugar (sometimes called granulated sugar, table sugar, or white granulated sugar) is made of either beet sugar or cane sugar, which has undergone a refining process.
It is the easiest to find and most commonly used.
Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it.
It is commonly used in chocolate chip cookie recipes, and it’s rare for a recipe that calls for brown sugar not to also call for white sugar as well.
When a recipe calls for “brown sugar” but doesn’t specify what type (light or dark), it is referring to light brown sugar.
In my recipes, you can use whatever type of brown sugar you have on hand whether it is dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, or demerara sugar – which is very common in Israel.
Just keep in mind that the flavor and color will be slightly different depending on what you choose to use.
Turbinado sugar is better known as “raw sugar”. But, despite this name, the sugar is not really “raw.”
Instead, it’s partially refined sugar that retains some of the original molasses.
The term “raw sugar” may also give off the impression that it is somehow healthier.
In reality, turbinado sugar is nutritionally similar to white sugar.
Demerara sugar is very popular in Israel and is especially delicious in tea, but is also used for baking.
Unlike white sugar, demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing and retains some vitamins and mineral.
However, it is still not much healthier than white sugar.
Vanilla sugar is not very common in the States. However, it is common in Israel and parts of Europe.
This is sugar that sat for an extended period of time with vanilla beans, giving it a vanilla flavor.
This type of sugar is common in the United Kingdom.
It has a finer grain than white (granulated) sugar and larger than powdered sugar.
Caster sugar is often called for in recipes for delicate baked goods like meringues, souffles, and sponge cakes.
You can use a 1:1 conversion rate between caster sugar and white (granulated) sugar.
Powdered sugar, sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar, is a sugar with a powdered texture.
This sugar is rarely, if ever, used for baking. Instead, it is used for dusting desserts and making frosting and icings.
In some countries, you can also find powdered vanilla sugar.
It is made the exact same way regular vanilla sugar is made. However, the sugar used is powdered instead of granulated.
Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla sugar
In my recipes, I don’t specify what kind of vanilla to use.
The reason for this is that in the States, vanilla extract is exclusively used.
Meanwhile in Israel, along with many European countries, vanilla sugar is common.
In most, if not all recipes, both vanilla extract and vanilla sugar can be used.
In recipes where vanilla sugar can be used instead of extract, you can replace them 1:1.
Replacing Sugar with Honey
If you’d prefer to use honey instead of sugar, you can do so with pretty good results.
Honey can be two or even three times as sweet depending on the honey, so for every 1 cup of sugar, you can use 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey.
Since honey adds liquid, you need to remove some to balance it out. For every cup of honey remove a 1/4 cup of liquid.
Also, it burns faster than granulated sugar, so you want to lower the baking temperature by 25 F or 4 C. In addition, check it early and often to avoid burning or overbaking.
Types of Vanilla
Vanilla comes from a pod commonly known as a “vanilla bean”, which comes from the vanilla orchids.
Vanilla pod has been used for flavoring since the Aztecs, and was introduced to Europe by a Spanish conquistador, along with cocoa.
Vanilla extract is created by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol for some time. This is the most commonly used type of vanilla.
Vanilla sugar is common in Europe and some parts of the Middle East, like Israel.
It is made from vanilla beans sitting in sugar, vanilla bean powder mixed with sugar, or sugar mixed with vanilla extract.
In some countries, like Italy, you can also find vanilla powdered sugar which is used for confections.
Vanilla paste is generally a specialty item. It is a thick paste that contains a blend of the scraped-out vanilla pod seeds and vanilla extract.
You can use it as you do vanilla extract and it will leave flakes of vanilla bean like you see in vanilla bean ice cream.
Imitation Vanilla, otherwise known as artificial vanilla or vanilla essence, is made from synthetic vanilla.
This is the compound that naturally occurs in vanilla beans and gives it its flavor.
Can I use imitation vanilla?
Many will tell you that you should use high quality vanilla, just like they say you should use the best cocoa.
However, most of us will probably not be willing to pay the hefty price that comes with exceptionally high-quality ingredients.
Overall, vanilla is very expensive, so the extract is as well.
So, if you’re not going to get regular quality vanilla extract, you might as well use imitation vanilla.
Adjusting for a Convection Oven
An ordinary oven cooks by enveloping food in hot, dry air. This air heats the outside of the food which slowly penetrates to the inside of the food until it’s cooked all the way.
Now, in a convection oven, the fan produces extra energy. It takes the hot air and blows it around, producing around 25 to 30 percent more energy, depending on the fan’s power.
Regular ovens also can have hot spots, but the fan in a convection oven will circulate the air to help even out the temperature variances.
Since convection ovens produce more heat, you need either lowering the temperature or shortening the cooking time to compensate.
When recipes specify temperatures and cooking times, it’s for conventional ovens. Of course, this is unless the recipe is specifically for convection ovens.
The simplest method is to set the oven 25ºF to 50ºF lower than the recipe says.
A simple rule to follow is to lower the temperature by 25ºF when baking cookies and pies, but 50ºF when roasting meats. Some convection ovens offer separate settings for baking and for roasting.
You can also leave the temperature the same and instead shorten the cooking time by 25 percent. For example, if your recipe calls for 60 minutes in the oven, check the food after 45 minutes instead.
However, keep in mind, some convection ovens actually make a heat adjustment for you. That is, if you set a convection oven for 350ºF, it might actually set itself to 325ºF to compensate. So, check your manual before making adjustments.
WHY IS IT TAKING LONGER THAN DESCRIBED TO BAKE?
Over time, the thermostat on ovens gets a little off, causing some ovens to run hot and others to run cool. This is why recipes tend to say things like “10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.” So, if it takes you longer than expected, that’s fine, don’t worry about it. Just keep baking until ready.
WHY DID MY RECIPE COME OUT TOO DRY?
Just like some ovens run cool, others run hot. If your oven runs hot, bake these at a lower temperature. Ideally, you should get an oven thermometer to know what temperature you’re really baking at.
HOW TO STORE COOKIES
Let cookies cool completely. Place in a resealable bag or an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to a week.
HOW TO FREEZE COOKIES
Let cookies cool completely. It is best to freeze cookies on a tray so that they freeze as individuals and then move to a resealable freezer bag.
If this is not practical for you, place cooled cookies in a resealable freezer bag and freeze that way.
Cookies will keep for up to 3 months. After that, the quality begins to degrade.
When thawing baked cookies, remove from bag and let sit at room temperature.
If desired, you can gently reheat thawed cookies to mimic that fresh-baked taste and texture: place them in a 275°F or 140°C oven until soft.
The first time I made these, I made them only using cornstarch to try to make them gluten free. Instead of melting in my mouth, the texture was like I just took a spoonful of corn starch. Not good.