It’s been a trying week for me to say the least. I won’t go into details, but uncertainty throws me off. I’m a planner who craves structure and constants. When things get tough, I draw on the familiar to bring me up. Working out is one way, but lately my mind’s been so distracted that I find myself missing moves in my beloved Turbokick classes. Good thing I can count on my passion for food to divert my thoughts! The recipe I’m sharing today is a long time favorite of mine to eat, but a new experience for me to bake – cheese rolls from Brazil called Pão de Queijo.
These delectable puffs are best right out of the oven. Biting into one reveals a very chewy, cheesy center. The bread is naturally gluten-free, as they are made using maniac flour, derived from the cassava plant. Sweet maniac flour is also known as tapioca flour, which can you find at most supermarkets. The fermented sour flour version, called polvilho azedo, improves the rising and is the preferred flour to use. You can try your local spanish market or buy online.
In Brazil, minas cheese is the gold standard, though parmesan is also used. Outside of Brazil this is hard to find, so I make mine with parmesan.
Most recipes call for either butter or oil. Oil is traditional, but I like to do half butter, half oil, as you can’t beat the taste of butter. These buttery, cheesy treats are perfect for an afternoon snack or pre-dinner bite.
Pão de Queijo
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/ 4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (10 ounces) tapioca flour (or Polvilho Azedo/sour maniac starch)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Queijo Minas if you can find it!)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a small saucepan, combine milk, oil, butter, and salt, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk occasionally. Remove from heat as soon as you see big bubbles develop.
- Add the tapioca flour to the saucepan and stir until mixed. Grainy dough is normal.
- Transfer dough to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. You don’t want to do this by hand! Let rest for 15 minutes. Alternatively, beat the dough at medium speed for a few minutes to help it cool. This step is to prevent cooking the eggs when mixing into hot dough.
- With the mixer on medium, add in eggs one at a time. Mix until dough is mostly smooth, with minimal lumps.
- Now add the cheese to the dough until fully incorporated. The resulting dough will be very, very sticky.
- Dip a cookie scoop in water or grease with oil, and drop 1.5 tablespoon balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Space the mounds an inch or two apart. If you are doing this by hand, grease hands with oil.
- Bake puffs for 20-25 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. Cool just enough to be able to eat.
- Dough can also be frozen and baked straight from the freezer. I find this yields even better results. Form balls on the parchment paper and let them freeze solid. Then transfer frozen balls to a plastic freezer bag. When ready, bake them for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!