Pão de Queijo (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐ̃w̃ dʒi ˈkejʒu]), is a very popular tea and breakfast item in Brazil – sold in bakeries, coffee shops, frozen in supermarkets to be baked home and street stalls. They are also frequently homemade, especially in Minas Gerais: Brazilian state where my family comes from and also the “Pão de Queijo” home state.
Great gluten free diet option as it is not made of wheat but Cassava (check more about Cassava), more specifically Tapioca Starch. Quoting Wikipedia: The cassava root produces a very powerful starch which is key to the size and texture of the Pão de Queijo.
Unlike other bread the recipe calls for no leavening of any kind. Small pockets of air within the dough expand during baking and are contained by the powerful elasticity of the starch paste.
The smell of these yummy cheese breads, crispy with a chewy and moist centre always takes me back home. Living in Australia, it took me a while to develop a recipe of Pão de Queijo as good as the ones I had home. The problem is, the quality of the bread depends mainly of the quality of the starch you are using.
In Brazil, there are two kinds of Tapioca Starch available, the Sour Starch (oxidized starch) and the “Sweet” Starch (the one you generally find in Asian Stores and good supermarkets).
You can make the bread with either but using the sour starch will result in a more hollow and “puff” bread, it will also give it some sourness (like a sour dough bread). The “Sweet” Starch will make more condensed bread and you won’t have the sour taste. You can also make the bread mixing up the two different kinds of starch in a half/half proportion.
Personally I like to use the Sour Starch as the texture is better and it is more traditional and this was when my problems to replicate it here in Australia started. You can’t find the Sour Starch easily when living abroad and I just couldn’t find a starch that would give me the right consistence.
After several failures I am pleased to share a recipe “I can be proud of” with you today. A few important points before jumping into the recipe:
- Original Cheese Bread does not have baking powder in the dough. I added baking power so I could have some of the texture the Sour Starch would give me.
- It is very important to pour the boiling liquids all over the starch and knead it while it is still hot – if your cheese bread does not work the mistake was very likely in this point.
- When you add the eggs and the cheese it will form a very moist paste, beat it really well. In the original recipe it should be kneaded but this one is extra moist, again to give it a better texture. DON’T ADD more starch to it as it will turn into doughy horrible bread.
- You can experiment adding different cheeses to the bread – In Brazil we use a local cheese named Mineiro, that is white and fresh but left to be cured when used to cheese bread. The important is to keep the proportion of half part of cheese to 1 part of starch.
- Pão de Queijo is only good hot! Serve it immediately or freeze the unbaked balls of dough to bake later. Cold Pão de Queijo makes an awesome Panini – cut it in half, put a slice of salami and press it with a sandwich press… yummmm 🙂
- You can find easily the Tapioca Starch at Asian/Indian Stores. If you can put your hands in the Brazilian starch is even better. In Australia you can check where you can find it at Brazilian Foods .
You can freeze the cheese bread by rolling the balls and putting them in a tray, uncovered in the freezer just until they are holding their shape then transfer the bread to a ziplock bag – they keep well in the freezer for about three months. To bake the frozen cheese bread just follow the same procedure you would use for the fresh cheese bread – there is no need to defrost before baking it however it will take about five minutes further to bake.
Now that you know everything about Pão de Queijo, use my recipe to make it to your family. Bom Apetite!
This part of the post is new. I notice some people have been having a hard time getting it right and that’s ok, is a bit of a trick one – it might seen not enough liquid but it is just like we do, promise of someone born in Brazil and raised not only in Brazil but in the state where Pão de Queijo comes from: MG. Here is a step by step with photos of each one of the measures. If you still find any problem don’t hesitate in contact me.
250 g Tapioca Starch well Measured and 125 ml Milk
125g Cheese and 1 heaped tablespoon of butter (40g)
And here we are ready to start! Put the Milk and the butter to heat over medium heat and leave it until it boils completly
Spread the Tapioca Starch in a large bowl. Try to cover as much of it’s surface with the boiling milk and butter
Work fast, first mashing all with a fork and than with your hands – you can’t wait the dough to cool down. At first it will be just like the first picture bellow:Crumble. Continue kneading and you will have it like the second picture. It will still be too dry though.
Add the egg and if you are using a food processor, process here a little bit before adding the cheese, otherwise it will incorporate to the dough and it will make it too fat. If you are making by hand like I am doing here, you can add at this point the cheese. You will also add the salt and the baking powder here. In the recipe I put 1/2 teaspoon of salt, in Brazil we like it very savory so for me I always add 1 tablespoon, just adjust it to your taste. The baking powder is optional, in Brazil we don’t add it, if you are using the “sweet” starch you might want to add it, if you are using the sour starch you don’t really need it. I always add it when I am making out of Brazil because the quality of the starch is not the same.
Knead… knead… knead…. You will end up with a sticky dough (I told you it was enough liquid! :-)). If it is too sticky (it might be more or less depending on the size of the egg), just put in the fridge uncovered for about 5 minutes and will be good enough to roll.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (350F) fan forced. Roll the bread into balls – you can make them small of larger. We generally make small ones (2.5cm) to eat as an afternoon tea and large ones (3.5-4cm) for breakfast. Bake for 20-30 min until puffed up and lightly browned. In the photo above I used Parmesan cheese very finely ground, here in the photo below I used cheddar and more roughly ground so you can see more of the cheese that’s why you see a bit of more color in the surface.
Here it is, crispy outside and when you open it has to be gooey and cheesy.
- 250g Tapioca Starch
- 125ml Full Cream Milk (If you got plans to freeze part of it you can add a tiny bit more of milk, and I mean, really tiny, 25ml)
- 1 generous (heaped) tablespoon of butter (40g of butter)
- 125g Ground Parmesan Cheese
- 1 large Egg
- 1/2 Tablespoon salt (less if you want less savory)
- ½ Teaspoon of baking powder (optional)
- Put the Tapioca Starch in a large bowl.
- In a small pan bring the milk, salt and butter to boil.
- Pour the hot liquid over the Starch, covering the most of its surface you can. With a fork quickly mix up everything and finish kneading with your hands or with a food processor.
- Add the eggs, cheese and baking powder.
- Mix well, if possible kneading with a food processor or a mixer.
- The dough will be very sticky. Put it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap for about 10 min and you will be able to roll it.
- Heat the oven to 200C.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Roll the bread in balls of 2.5cm.
- Arrange the bread in the baking tray leaving about two fingers of space between each.
- Bake for about 20-25 min – until Puff and lightly browned.
Where to find the Starch in Australia
In Australia you can buy online the Sour and the Sweet Starch here: Brazilian Style Food
Leave a comment if you can recommend any online store to buy the Starch in other countries and I will be updating this list.
Follow the recipe and the step by step to the letter and it still not good? Let’s see what can have happened:
- The Milk has to be boiling not “almost” boiling – it does make difference in the texture. We call it in Brazil “escaldar o polvilho”
- You have to cover most of the surface with the milk and knead it while hot, that will pre-cook the starch and will give the correct consistence to the bread. You don’t need to add more milk or butter here. This is the most important part and when everybody makes mistakes when is learning how to make it.
- NEVER add more starch after you put the milk
- If you still fail, try to put your hands in a Brazilian startch, this brand below is not my first choice when I am at home but you can find easily out of Brazil and this is what I am using here in Australia:
Again, If you still have any problem just contact me. Bom Apetite! 🙂