Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pão de Queijo

Pão de Queijo(Brazilian Cheese Bread)
I recently traveled to Brasil in August of 2012 and had a fantastic time. I was looking forward to trying many new local foods and brews and, sad to say, was highly disappointed. Overall, the food was plain and lacking flavor or spice. However, there were a few things that absolutely blew my mind.
Feijoada and Pão de Queijo were two of these things. Feijoada is the national dish of Brasil and rightfully so. Depending on the region of Brasil, it is usually served at restaurants only two days of the week. In São Paulo it was served on Thursdays and Sundays. In Rio de Janeiro it was served on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It consists of a base of beans and rice, with many cuts of meat that have been stewed in the bean juices for several hours. You can add various cuts of meat to your liking until your plate is full and piping hot. Delicious. My focus in this post is Pão de Queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread that is served at almost every restaurant, cafe, and bar. In terms of serving, it's like what we Americans might consider breadsticks at Olive Garden, cheese rolls at Red Lobster, or a bagel with your morning coffee. It's more of a snack than a meal but I can assure you I turned many of these golden little bites of perfection into a meal in terms of sheer quantity.

As far as I'm aware these little puffs are gluten free which is something I care very little about but I thought I would let you know just in case you're interested. UPDATE May 12, 2013: These little golden puffs ARE gluten free which is something I care very much about, so these have become my "go to" snack for BBQs, potlucks, or any other occasion. They're fantastic!

For this recipe you will need Tapioca Flour, Water, Oil(Vegetable or Corn), Salt, Whole Milk, Eggs, and Parmesan Cheese. The hardest ingredient to find is Tapioca Flour, also called tapioca starch or manoic starch. I found some at a specialty foods store once, and an asian grocery store another time, usually with all the other baking goods(flour, sugar, spices, etc). Here's a great place to get some from too.

So here's what you need:
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup oil(vegetable or corn), or butter
1 tablespoon sea salt or regular salt
1/3 cup milk(whole or 2%)
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups tapioca flour
Approximately 2 large eggs(add at least one first and add more to achieve desired thickness)

1. Pour tapioca flour and cheese in a large bowl, set aside.
2. Put milk, oil/butter, water, and salt in a pot on medium/high heat. Stir until boiling. Watch this stuff carefully, if you turn away for even a second, the pot can bubble over and make a big mess. As soon as the mixture starts to bubble and rise, take off the stove and slowly add to the tapioca flour while mixing in the bowl.
3. Almost immediately the dough will get crazy thick. Try to smooth it out as best as you can with a large spoon or something.

Kneading the dough, checking for desired thickness. Lumpy Play-Doh is just about right.
4. Add the first egg and knead the dough until mixed well. It may still be pretty hot, so be careful. The heat will go away relatively quickly and will be easier to handle. Also, this part is VERY sticky. If it's too thick, add the second egg and repeat the kneading process until it's about the consistency of Play-Doh. This step reminds me every time that I need a Kitchen Aid mixer.
6. Use a spoon or butter knife to scrape what you can off your hands back into the bowl.
7. Wash your hands and get all the leftover goop off, now you're almost ready to bake. Clean hands is important for the next step.
8. Since the dough is really sticky, pour about a tablespoon of oil onto your hands before you roll the dough. You may need to apply more oil to your hands a few times. I keep a small bowl with a bit of oil in it to add more oil to my hands on-the-fly as necessary .
9. With a spoon, scoop a piece of dough a little smaller than the palm of your hand, and roll it into a ball.
10. Place each ball on a greased pan or greased sheet of aluminum foil(also on a pan). Place each ball about an inch or so apart from each other.
11. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the cheese bread is a medium golden brown.
12. After you pull them out of the oven, let them sit for about 5 minutes and enjoy!

Bob Ross should have painted this. Happy little puffs of deliciousness.
Tips: Don't open the oven while baking, they may flatten out completely. If you do have to open it, do it slowly. They'll still be pretty good, but not the best.

If you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out! I love this stuff. I'm addicted really. Enjoy!


  1. I'm so excited to try this recipe because I miss cheesy breads. Do you think I could substitute asiago for parmesan? I think they're both similarly hard cheeses....

    1. I would say go for it, I might have to try that too! I want to experiment with adding jalapeños to the dough also. Since I recently made a pizza crust from this recipe, I'd like to try making a few large sandwich rolls and a few other types for quick lunch ideas.