I couldn’t believe how many of you guessed correctly when I posted a picture of these babies on Facebook last week and asked if you knew what they were. I’m so proud, you little foodies, you. A million dollars to all of you (except for those that guessed yorkshire puddings and cream puffs, no offense).
Long live pao de queijo! Or for all you other non-Portuguese speakers like me, Brazilian cheese bread. Easy Brazilian cheese bread. Gluten-free, easy Brazilian cheese bread. Delicious gluten-free, easy Brazilian cheese bread.
I wasn’t kidding in my Facebook post that Brian could polish off this entire batch if left alone. He spent a couple years living in Brazil and doesn’t want to brag, but would like me to state, for the record, that he still considers himself (15 years later) a pao de queijo expert. Of course Brazilians don’t necessarily make these in mini muffin tins and there are a few other differences to the authentic street food of Brian’s memories, but this quick knockoff recipe definitely fulfills the cravings and our entire family has been converted to the power and tastiness of pao de queijo.
The texture of pao de queijo is chewy. Chewy, cheesy and delicious. This is due in part to the cheese used in the very thin batter, but it is also helped along by the tapioca flour (same thing as tapioca starch). I’m afraid there aren’t any substitutions for this ingredient but the good news is that because tapioca flour is used widely in gluten-free cooking and baking, I’ve seen it in most grocery stores these days (we’ve come so far!). I buy mine on Amazon (the Bob’s Red Mill brand) which works great for us since we make these easy cheesy little puffs all the time.
If you’ve never had pao de queijo, methinks now is the time! Get yourself some tapioca flour, a bit of Parmesan cheese (see the note in the recipe for other cheese options) and a mini muffin tin and you will be set. I promise you’ll want to make these over and over again. Just remember the Official Pao De Queijo Rules: 1) they must be eaten warm. must. 2) don’t let them get too brown on the bottom – they’ll lose their chewiness. 3) you might as well just bite the bullet and double the batch.
You can experiment with many different cheeses in this recipe. My favorite combo is Parmesan and queso fresco (a widely available Mexican cheese). The texture will change if you use softer cheeses like cheddar or Monterey Jack. My recommendation if it's your first time making is to use all Parmesan cheese and then experiment after that. Don't substitute pregrated Parmesan in the green can or even the preshredded Parmesan in the bags or tubs (I tried that and the flavor was artificial and plasticky tasting). Freshly grated from a block is the way to go.
Also, in case you are wondering, there isn't a good substitution for the tapioca flour (same thing as tapioca starch). We make these often enough that I go through bags and bags of the stuff (I buy it on Amazon - the Bob's Red Mill brand - or it is usually widely available in most grocery stores these days).
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup canola or vegetable or olive oil
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour (fluff the flour before measuring)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup packed shredded cheese, like Parmesan or Asiago (see note)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a mini muffin tin (this makes about 16-24 little breads so if you don't have a muffin tin large enough, you can just make separate batches after the first ones come out).
- In a blender, combine the egg, oil, milk, flour and salt. Process until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender once or twice. Add the cheese and process for just a short bit, 5-10 seconds or a few short pulses, until the cheese is in small bits all throughout the batter.
- Give the batter a good stir to get any solids off the bottom and pour the mixture into the prepared muffin tin filling the cups nearly to the top.
- Bake the pao de queijo until very lightly golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Don't let them get too brown on the bottom or they will be too crusty and not as chewy.
- Remove them from the oven and let them cool for just a minute or two. They are best eaten warm! Don't worry if the cute little puffs fall a bit in the middle - that's completely normal.
Recipe Source: tweaked this recipe thanks to Brian’s experience devouring these babies when he lived in Brazil