Pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread)

It is impossible to resist those emblematic cheese bread balls. with this easy recipe learn how to make Pao de queijo for a guilty pleasure or table full of guests.

Impossible to visit Brazil without tasting those delicious small breads. A pao de queijo hides under its crust a soft and chewy heart of cheesy dough. They are a great option to have easy to make appetizers that are both original and delicious on your table. Added bonus if you’re looking for tasty gluten-free recipes as this one will please any crowd regardless of how they feel about the question.

They are traditionally made with Tapioca flour and aged Queijo minas but after making a few batches, I actually prefered to start from small Tapioca pearls that I grind in a blender to give more texture to the dough. Also as aged Queijo minas is hard to find you can substitute it with other hard pressed cheeses. Most recipes out there call for 100% Parmesan however so far I found the best results were with a 70/30 combination of a Mexican cheese called Cojita and Parmesan. You can’t really go wrong though so I’d encourage you to keep playing with different cheeses and combinations to find what you love the most.

Yield: 16 balls of goodness

1 cup whole milk

2 tbs butter

1 tbs coconut oil

1.5 cup small Tapioca pearls

1 Egg

175g Cheese (125g Cojita + 50g Parmesan)

1 tsp Salt

If like me you start from Tapioca pearls, grind them in a blender until you get a somewhat fine flour with still a few bits and pieces in it. Alternatively you can just go with regular Tapioca flour but I find the texture of the crust slightly more interesting when starting with pearls.

In a sauce pan bring the Milk, Butter, Coconut oil and Salt to a simmer then pour the Tapioca in the pan. As the dough can be very sticky, some prefer to work it in a standing mixer while others will be fine with just mixing in the same pan. At this point, the dough does require a bit of a leap of faith as it is still grainy and sticky. Believe me it will be fine except if it is super dry (in which case just add a TINY bit of hot water).

Let it rest a bit to allow the tapioca to hydrate and the dough to cool down. Once  it is cool to the touch, it is a good time to preheat your oven to 400F (or 200 Celsius) before adding the Egg and Cheese to the bowl. Mix until completely incorporated.

If the dough is too sticky to form the balls, just wet your hands regularly to make the process easier. All sizes work but something about as big as a ping-pong ball gives a nice crust-to-chewy heart ratio. As it does not rise a lot so you’ll be fine by letting about an inch of space between each ball.

Cook in the oven between 20 and 30min depending on how much crust you want to have.

They are best served when still warm. Enjoy!

Shelf-life and Freezing

Once the balls are formed you can keep them up to 2 days in cling film in the fridge if you need to. However, they freeze perfectly at that point and can be cooked from frozen so that’s what I would recommend doing if you made a bigger batch. Just add about 10min next time you put them in the oven.

In the unlikely event you have some left-overs, you can keep them in cling film in your fridge for 1 or 2 days and reheat quickly in the microwave. Spoiler alert: it’s not as good but I doubt you’ll find anyone able to say no to one and it’s still better than wasting them.

What I want to try next

As the base is some milk you warm up, I’m curious to test infusing it with various ingredients in the first step. I tried with shallots but the taste was not noticeable. Next I’ll try to play a bit with chilies, garlic, cloves, nutmeg or other spices.

As usual please share below any challenge you faced, ideas or variations you particularly liked.

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