m. c. de marco: The New Kitchen Cookbook

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Although pão literally means bread, I’ve listed pão de queijo as an appetizer because you should eat it hot as soon as it’s baked rather than keeping it around for a day like bread (and it’s gluten-free). If this isn’t convenient, you can freeze the balls until you want them.

The main ingredient is tapioca/manioc/cassava/yuca/arrowroot flour/starch. Most of those words mean the same thing; the major difference between them is whether the tapioca starch (polvilho) is sweet (doce) or sour (azedo). (Cassava flour may refer to a moister whole-grain product that isn’t the same as the starch, but it’s even harder to find. Also, not all arrowroot is made of manioc.) Goya, Bob’s, and other earthy/crunchy brands make sweet tapioca flour/starch that you can find in your average American supermarket, or you can get it cheaper in an Asian market (possibly as arrowroot). But you will need to find a Brazilian grocery store to get an imported Brazilian brand of sour tapioca flour, such as Yoki or Amafil, or you can overpay for them on the internet.

This recipe is somewhat altered from the one that used to be at Leite’s Culinaria, which was about as strict as you could get on the cheese bread front. They included both kinds of tapioca flour, lots of steps, chill time, and lecturing about what you MUST do to get the bread to come out right. If you’re short on time, you might want to try my easy version or consult the rest of the internet, which thinks that cheese bread is actually pretty forgiving. (See Variants, below.)

Makes about 40, best eaten hot out of the oven.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Grate any ungrated cheese.
  2. Mix cheese and eggs with an immersion blender or other device. Set aside.
  3. Mix flour and salt in an optionally heat-proof bowl. Set aside.
  4. Bring liquid ingredients (milk, water, oil) to a boil in a small saucepan.
  5. Pour boiling liquid ingredients into the flour mixture (or the flour into the pan).
  6. Mix with a spoon until it has cooled enough to knead.
  7. Knead by hand in the bowl until it’s well-mixed.
  8. Add cheese mixture and spices to the bowl and knead for 10 more minutes in the bowl. (You can stir here or use a pastry cutter if it’s too sticky to knead.)
  9. Cover and chill 2 hours or overnight.
  10. Preheat oven to 350°.
  11. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. (Don’t use a mini-muffin pan.)
  12. Scoop and/or hand-roll the dough into 1 inch balls. (Optionally, freeze them at this point.)
  13. Bake 14 minutes or until they’re a nice light golden color. (Add a couple of minutes if they were frozen.)

Variants

Ideally, you would use a Brazilian hard cheese called queijo Minas padrão or queijo Minas meia cura. (Minas is just the region, so check for the other words.)

The most common pão de queijo cheese substitute recommendation seems to be a mix of parmesan and mozarella. (A cup of packed mozzarella is about 130g.) Asiago is another option, as, apparently, are feta or farmer’s cheese.

I often use only a nominal T of grated Parmesan, plus about 250 g. of a mozzarella/asiago/cheddar mix from Costco.

Most recipes in English replace the sour tapioca starch with sweet tapioca starch for lack of Brazilian grocery stores. If following such a recipe, you can re-sour it by using 5 parts azedo to 3 parts doce.

I guess they don’t have Brazilian groceries in Japan, because expatriate Brazilians make cheese bread with potato there.

Most recipes don’t require that you pause to chill the dough.

Some recommend baking frozen balls without defrosting, for (up to) twice the time.

Most recipes specify a dough hook, food processor, or blender. This isn’t really necessary as long as your cheese is grated finely enough.

On the other hand, you can just blend and pour a watery dough into a mini-muffin pan instead of struggling to incorporate the proper quantity of starch into the proper quantity of liquid. I’ve expanded this variant into a whole recipe. This particular recipe is handy because it is scaled down to one egg and includes a weight for the cheese (66 grams).

Some people bake the usual dough in muffin tins, although that didn’t seem to work with my recipe.

Some tame the dough with a bit of wheat flour (totally cheating).

Some recipes go as far as to omit the cheese and milk to make the recipe non-dairy. This is not as wacky as you think; cheese and milk are thought to be relatively recent additions in the history of tapioca starch rolls.

Colombian cheese bread incorporates cornmeal. In Paraguay they add 2 tsp. aniseed to a similar recipe.