My first encounter with pao de queijo was a pretty unglamorous one. I was shopping in my neighborhood Key Food, starving, and needed something to nom on while walking home. Passing by the bread section, I noticed a new offering – pao de queijo. It sounded so exotic. And plus, it was bread, so I couldn’t say no. I grabbed a few of the golden brown bread rolls and headed to checkout. Walking home, I ravenously bit into one of them, which literally stopped me in my tracks – I’d struck gold. The roll was airy yet chewy, and scented with cheese throughout. See, this is a great thing about living in a multiethnic neighborhood – you can discover a world of new foods and ingredients right in your regular supermarket.
Naturally, the experience translated into the desire to make these little guys at home. First up, Saveur’s recipe, which included the use of yeast. These turned out flat and dense – more like cheese cookies than puffs – probably because I killed the yeast. (I have not, to this day, made a single successful yeast-based recipe, thank you very much.) Next, The Kitchn’s recipe, which without the assistance of a stand mixer was also a total fail… though I did get a thorough arm workout as a result.
Finally, I tried Food 52’s recipe. The previous two recipes utilized the classic French pâte à choux technique that involves heating up milk and fat (butter or oil) together, and then beating in eggs and flour, which produces a thick viscous dough. The last recipe produces a thin batter (akin to crepe batter) instead of a sticky dough, which was to be baked in a muffin tin. I thought these was no way it would work, but to my surprise, it did! This pao de queijo recipe made light and airy puffs (sort of like popovers), and involved the least handiwork – a total winner.
These are best eaten hot or warm, or at least within a few hours of baking. After a while, the puffs seize up and become quite dense, since tapioca flour is the main ingredient. These are great to serve for breakfast or brunch. This is a slightly adapted version of this Food52 recipe: https://food52.com/recipes/38045-brazilian-cheesy-bread
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup organic canola oil, plus more for muffin tin
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour (sometimes marked ‘tapioca starch’ or ‘cassava flour’)
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a 12-count muffin tin.
- In a food processor, combine egg, oil, milk and salt. Blend for 5 seconds.
- Carefully add tapioca flour and blend on low until combined, about 10 seconds.
- Add cheese and blend to incorporate.
- Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 of the way. Bake until tops are crackly and golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before removing from pan. Enjoy warm.