Light Pao de Queijo are a favorite side dish at Brazilian restaurants, like Fogo de Chao. The cheesy breads are so addictive that many people fill up on them before they fill up on perfectly roasted meat at dinner! The bread is quite easy to make and well worth trying at home, where you can pair them with any main dishes you might be serving – not just steaks.
Pao de Queijo is a gluten free bread made with tapioca flour. The tapioca flour gives the rolls their uniquely chewy texture so it is a must-use ingredient, even if you have to make a special trip to a well-stocked grocery store to pick some up before trying these. There are a couple of ways to make Pao de Queijo. Some recipes make a thick dough that can be kneaded and shaped by hand. Another version makes a thinner batter that is baked in mini muffin pans and turns into a popover-like bread. This version of the bread is quick and easy to make, and comes together after less than 60 seconds in the blender. Since I love a quick and easy bread recipe, I tend to prefer this version and that is what this recipe is for.
The batter is quite thin – about the consistency of crepe batter – so don’t worry if it is not quite what you were expecting when you started to make this recipe! This is because the technique to make these is very similar to the technique used to make popovers: a thin batter gets its airiness from eggs, puffing up to form a light “roll” in the oven. I used a medium-sharp cheddar cheese (Unexpected Cheddar from Trader Joe’s), which gave the puffs a nice flavor and richness, but you can use other cheeses including Parmesan. The puffs may sink slightly (not unlike a popover) after baking, so don’t worry if yours don’t stay puffed up for more than a couple of minutes. The bread should be served warm, just after coming out of the oven. Fortunately, the batter can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated overnight, which makes this easy to make when entertaining.
You’ll get the best results if you only fill your mini muffin cups 3/4 full. The puffs will be a little bit smaller, but they will hold their shape a little better than their larger counterparts. This recipe will make 16-18 mini puffs. Once you’ve baked the first batch, you can pour the remaining batter directly into the still hot pan and return it to the oven, no waiting required.
Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable
1 cup (120g) tapioca flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 12-cup mini muffin pan.
Combine all ingredients, except the cheese, in a blender and blend for about 30 seconds, until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender with a spatula, then process again. Add in 1/4 cup of the cheese and blend for 2-3 seconds. Divide batter into prepared pan, filling each cavity almost to the top. Sprinkle on remaining cheese.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until puffs are set on the outside and lightly browned.
Turn out onto a wire rack and serve immediately.