My friend Valeria Caradonna always puts out a great spread when company comes. My favorite item, Pao de Queijo (or, Brazilian Cheese Bread). She makes these light chewy puffs then cuts them open and stuffs them with ham and cheese. So delicious!
My next experience with these cheesy delights is at my local espresso café. Bittersweet is this wonderful shabby chic place with great coffee, espresso drinks and teas. Their chalkboard menu has your breakfast and lunch classics taken to the next level. And, a sample collection of baked items. The best item? The Pao de Queijo made from scratch, oversized and out of the oven steamy hot. They go quick, so you might have to wait around for the next batch. Well worth it.
You can buy the dough balls in a Brazilian market then put them in the oven. But, I wanted to learn how to make them from scratch. So, I scoured the internet and played around with a few recipes. The one that I like the best I’m sharing here from Hilah Cooking. It’s quick and easy to make without a lot of muss and fuss.
A few things to keep in mind.
- There is a very particular Brazilian cheese recommended. I have never been able to find that cheese. Don’t let that stop you. I will use a sharp cheddar. I also found a 1000 day aged gouda that is extra sharp and so yummy. Maybe these don’t taste exactly as Valeria’s authentic cheese breads, but I’m a bit more partial to the sharper and saltier taste of the cheddar or aged gouda. If you want to tone it down, try a more mild hard cheese.
- The recipe calls for 4 oz of shredded cheese. You must weigh the cheese. 4 oz is not 1/2 cup. I measured the first time when I used pre-shredded cheddar. The next batches I freshly grated my own and weighed it. You get more cheese and better flavor. You don’t have to freshly grate your cheese, the key is weighing.
- I have had different consistencies in the dough. I think it has to do with the humidity. Sometimes the dough is like a soft pizza dough. Other times it comes out like a thick pancake dough. Don’t worry though. Don’t change the ingredient measure either. I’ve cooked these breads both ways and they come out the same. If like pizza dough, then just roll the balls in your palms and place on a sheet of parchment on your cookie tray. If more like pancake dough, scoop into a mini cupcake tray.
- If you don’t finish them in a single sitting (although I can’t imagine how you couldn’t), they do get hard the next day. I tried heating them up in the microwave for 20 seconds and that is okay but they aren’t light and fluffy anymore, just chewy. The best thing to do is put them in the toaster oven like you would your toast or bake in a 400 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes. While they get a little toastier on the outside, they come back to their original consistency as when you first pulled them from the oven.
- Want to put a spin on these cheesy breads? I’ve experimented with adding in chopped cilantro, chopped chive, and some grated zucchini (must squeeze out water) thrown in. Or, do as my friend Valeria does, cut them open and stuff in your favorite items. I’m thinking of trying some mushrooms sautéed with wine, garlic and onions.
- The recipe makes about two dozen with each bread about 50 calories. Because it uses Tapioca Flour, the recipe is gluten free.
Pao de Queijo
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 25 mins
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 24
- 1 cup whole milk (I use 1%)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 3 cups sweet tapioca flour (OR 2 cups sour tapioca flour if you can find it)
- 1 teaspoon salt (more if your cheese is not very salty)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 4 ounces grated cheese
- Set oven to 400ºF
- Combine milk, butter and oil in a small pot and place over medium-high heat. Bring to boil.
- Put tapioca flour and salt into mixing bowl of a stand mixer.
- Pour in hot milk and mix on low until smooth. It will look soft and stringy. Once cool to touch, mix in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
- Mix in the cheese.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment and scoop the dough out by large tablespoons, spaced an inch apart. (At this point, you may freeze the tray until the balls are solid, then store the balls in a freezer bag. When ready to bake, just put frozen pao de quiejo on a baking sheet and add an extra 5 minutes to cook time. Do not thaw first.)
- Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and and puffed. The interiors should be soft-set and elastic, but if you want a crispier outside, leave them in for 25-30 minutes. a
- Eat warm right away or let cool. Leftover pao de queijo can be left to cool completely, then stored at room temperature up to 3 days. Reheat in a low oven before serving (or eat at room temp).
To freeze: Drop blobs of dough onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet (or plate if a sheet won’t fit in your freezer). Freeze until solid, then transfer frozen blobs to a baggie or container. Save the parchment for baking. To bake frozen pao de queijo: Set oven to 375ºF. Put frozen dough onto parchment-lined sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Get the ingredients
These are all Amazon affiliate links, but you should be able to find at least the Bob’s Red Mill brand in most stores. To try with the sour tapioca flour, look at a Brazilian or Latin grocery or buy online!