This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!” taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba! Pão de Queijo ( Pão = Bread; Queijo = Cheese) is a non-yeasted bread, the main ingredient is not wheat flour instead it uses tapioca starch, but it is referred to as “bread”. It dates back to the eighteenth century and it became popular in the 1950’s in Minas Gerais (a state of Brazil).

You can find Pão de Queijo everywhere now in Brazil, from specialized snack bars that sell them hot out of the oven, to packages of frozen dough balls, sold in supermarkets, ready to bake at any minute in the comfort of your home. However, most Brazilians who like baking have a favorite recipe to make from scratch. Even if you stick to the same recipe, your Pão de Queijo may turn out slightly different each time. This is due to the quality of ingredients and type of cheese you use, do not be too concerned because most cheeses will work fine.

Tapioca starch (also known as cassava starch) is the main ingredient of Pão de Queijo. There are two types: regular and sour and they look pretty much like any other starch, powdery and white, sometimes with little granules. The cheese used in the authentic recipe is “Queijo Minas Curado” which is typical from Minas Gerais. However, the recipes are usually very flexible and you can use almost any kind of cheese and it will still work and be delicious. You can be adventurous and use strong flavored cheeses if you want.

Pão de Queijo is gluten-free. The traditional Pão de Queijo should not brown too much in the oven. As it gets lightly golden, remove and serve hot/warm. The “quick” versions can get a little more tanned, specially the waffle. They should have a thin dry crust with a soft, slightly chewy, cheesy interior, full of air pockets. Pão de queijo should be served hot or warm. After they cool down, they lose their special texture, so bake only what you need. If you still have left-overs, keep them in an air-tight container and try making Panini!

TRADITIONAL PÃO DE QUEIJO

 Ingredients:

500 gm (4 cups) tapioca starch

1 cup (250 ml) whole milk

2-3/4 tablespoons (40 ml) (1½ oz) (40 gm) butter

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) salt

3 cups (750 ml) (9 oz) (250gm) cheese, coarsely grated

1 to 3 large eggs, room temperature

Method:

  • Heat milk, butter, and salt in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Watch closely as mixture may boil over.
  • Remove from heat and set aside. Sift tapioca starch into a large bowl. Pour the boiled mixture over the tapioca.

  • Start stirring with a fork. The milk mixture will not be enough to form a dough. You will have a lumpy mixture.
  • Keep stirring with the fork, breaking down the lumps as much as you can, until the mixture cools down to warm.

  • At this point, preheat oven to moderately hot 400° F/200° C/gas mark 6. Add the grated cheese to the tapioca.
  • Mix well using your hands. Add one egg, a little bit at a time, mix with your hands until dough comes together.

  • Knead lightly until the dough comes together into a soft but pliable dough. It is ok if the dough is slightly sticky.
  • Form balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a greased silicon mat.

  • You can oil your hands to make shaping easier. Their size may vary from bite-size to the size of ping pong balls.
  • They will puff up quite a bit after baking. Bake for about 25 minutes until they just start to brown on the bottom.

  • You may have golden spots of cheese on the crust. Do not over-bake the dough as they will get hard and bitter.
  • If your dough gets too soft and sticky to shape into balls, you can always add more tapioca starch to the dough.

  • Alternatively you may pop the dough into a piping bag and pipe the dough on a baking sheet if dough is too soft.
  • Serve hot or warm. Brazilians love them with a cup of coffee.  Servings: Yields about 80 traditional Pão de Queijo.

“QUICK” PÃO DE QUEIJO

Ingredients:

2 large eggs, room temperature

10 tablespoons (150 ml) whole milk

4 tablespoons (60 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) butter, melted or 60 ml vegetable oil

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) salt (or to taste, depending on saltiness of cheese)

1/2 cup (125 ml) (1-2/3 oz) (50 gm) good quality parmesan cheese, grated

2 cups (500 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) tapioca starch

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Grease a muffin pan with vegetable oil.

  • Place all ingredients, except tapioca starch, in the jar of your blender. Blend everything for a minute or so.

  • With the blender still running, remove the little cap from the lid and add the tapioca flour by the spoonfuls.

  • Once you have added all the tapioca starch and the batter is smooth, turn off the blender and remove blade.

  • Pour batter into prepared muffin pan or you can use silicone cups that have been arranged on a baking sheet.

  • Bake at moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes or until puffed up and lightly browned.

  • Remove them from oven and serve them warm. Servings: Yields about 30 (2 tablespoons) 30 ml muffin cups.

Storage & Freezing Instructions:

Pão de Queijo dough should be baked right away. If not baked right after making the dough, it can be frozen (raw) with excellent results. All you have to do is shape the balls of dough to the desired size and place them side by side, but not touching, on a plate or baking sheet lined with a food-safe plastic bag (you can use this same bag to pack them after frozen).

Place it in the freezer for a few hours until hard. Remove from the freezer and place them in a food-safe plastic bag or ziplock bag and return to the freezer for later use. When you want to bake them, just pull out as many as you wish and arrange them on a very lightly greased baking sheet (or lined with parchment paper or silicone mat), about a couple inches apart and bake as directed. The dough balls can go straight from the freezer to the oven with perfect results!

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