Wednesday Baking: Pao de Quejo (Brazilian Cheese Bread) Gluten Free

Our youngest daughter is married to a Brazilian. Not only is he an exceptional handyman and can fix just about anything, we also have been introduced to these yummy, cheesy snacks. They are easy to make, only take a few ingredients (although most people probably will need to get some tapioca flour), and everyone loves them. They also happen to be gluten free, so are a great choice if you need to keep that in mind for family or friends.

I use a recipe taken mostly from Bon Appetit, but there are many of them out there on the internet, and all of them are very similar. The tapioca flour is a bit different to work with, and the consistency is not much like wheat flour, but if you make them a couple times, you’ll get used to it and know what to look for when you’re mixing them up.

“Wow! That’s a lot of cheese!” Yes, yes, it is, but they are cheese puffs so cheese is the star.  The recipe on the Bon Appetit website calls for Parmesan and farmer’s cheese, but I usually don’t use the farmer’s cheese. It can be hard to find. I like the Parmesan in there, so I always use that as my main cheese, but you can use whatever you like. I often use cheddar and Peccorino Romano with the Parm for a bit of sharpness .

I usually use my tablespoon disher to portion them out, then roll the balls in the palms of my hand to smooth them a little. Or you can use a smaller disher (or spoon) and make a larger quantity. Either way, they won’t last long once your guests taste them!

They can be baked and frozen, or just shaped and frozen on the sheet pans unbaked. Just seal them in zip loc bags and take out whatever amount you want to bake. The frozen baked ones just need to be reheated in the oven, and the unbaked ones will take just a bit longer to bake than if you did them right away.

Next time you’re faced with trying to find a gluten free snack that everyone can enjoy, try these pão de quejo. I’m sure they will become a new favorite!

Pão de Quejo (Brazilian Cheese Puffs)

1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
2 cups tapioca flour (sometimes called tapioca starch)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of grated other cheese (farmer’s cheese, Pecorino Romano, cheddar, whatever you like)
Arrange a rack in the center of oven; preheat to 425 degrees F. Heat milk, butter, salt, and 1/4 cup water in large saucepan, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture just begins to boil, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add tapioca flour, beating vigorously with wooden spoon until dough is dry and shaggy, about 10 seconds. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachement. Let cool 5 minutes.

Beat mixture on low speed just until dough starts to come together, about 30 seconds (alternatively, vigorously stir with a wooden spoon). Add eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat on low speed until incorporated (dough will look broken at first, then come together). Continue to beat on low speed until dough is smooth, sticky, and somewhat stretchy; do not overbeat or dough will lose its stretch. Add cheese and beat on low speed until evenly distributed.

Using a small disher, portion dough and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, spacing about 2″ apart (alternatively, form dough into balls with your hands).

Bake 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to bake until pão are very light brown, with some darker brown speckles all over (that’s the cheese), and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 20−25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

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