Monday, May 9, 2011

Chez Michelle and Justin: Pao de Queijo

Pao de queijo... fresh out of the oven! 

I don't usually dabble in gluten free breads or baked goods, since I've expended far too many grueling hours in the kitchen in the past, only to end up with hideous-tasting results. But a little while ago, at Nuela, we had such a lovely pao de queijo, brought out as an amuse bouche, that I was inspired to try my own hand at baking these Brazilian tapioca-flour based rolls.

By way of background, many South American countries have non-wheat based breads and pastries. Sat, a Colombian friend of ours, recently explained to me how historically, only wealthy colonizers had access to expensive, usually imported wheat. Locals tried to replicate the breads and pastries of the colonizers using more indigenous ingredients like manioc / tapioca flour, corn flour, yuca, and other starches. To me, these creations are often far, far more delicious than plain ol' boring wheat bread. 

Although many recipes for pao de queijo I found called for boiling certain liquid ingredients on the stove, first, and then adding tapioca flour to create a sticky dough, this one from Simply Recipes offered an alternative method, using only a blender to create a batter. It was so easy and accompanied by such attractive pictures that I was moved to try it. The results were intensely and deliciously cheesy. The texture was more like mochi than like a wheat flour-based roll, unlike Nuela's airier version. I loved the flavor and texture, but I intend to experiment with other versions of the recipe in the future to see how the texture varies as a result of using different methods. 

Here is the recipe I used, slightly modified from the Simply Recipes version:

Easy Pao de Queijo

Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes 
Yield: 12 rolls

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup cheddar
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 
  • 2 mini muffin tins (12 muffins each)
  • blender
  • spatula

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. 

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Stop the blender and scrape down the sides to ensure that all ingredients are incorporated. (This batter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.)

Fill muffin molds about half full of batter. 

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes.

Eat while warm!

Pao de queijo is traditionally eaten for breakfast or as a snack. One wonderful thing about this recipe is that the batter can keep for a while in the refrigerator, so you can bake just a couple in the toaster oven whenever the spirit moves you.



  1. These cheesy balls are indeed easy to make and so delicious! I have used cheddar, cottage cheese, cream cheese, parmeggiano, pecorino and even blue cheese and any and a combination of tapioca, rice flour, katakuriko and even okara (the leftover stuff from making soy milk and tofu) to good results! Go for it!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! Do you have a favorite method you'd recommend? Based on a very unscientific methodology (i.e. looking at internet pictures), it seems like the boil and bake method might result in a more airy, roll-like pao.

  3. Hm...I have never tried the boiling method. I am even less scientific, however - just mix all the things I want to dump in there (e.g. leftover cheese bits from last night's cheese plate) and let the food processor do its job. Your version does appear to be more dense; my suggestion - although not traditional per se - will be adding a tsp of baking powder or some pureed tofu (which does create a light and airy texture in many recipes).