Pão de Queijo (literally ‘cheese bread’ in Portuguese and don’t ask me to pronounce it!) rates as one of my favourite foods in the world. If you ever come across these delectable little cheese puffs in your travels, do yourself a favour and gobble them all up! Spare none for others for trust me, it’s impossible to stop at one and you’ll regret sharing.
So what’s so good about these crispy yet chewy balls of wonder? Firstly Pão de Queijo is gluten free and not because it’s a try-hard, gluten free version of something else. Tapioca flour is what gives these puffs their much beloved soft, almost glutinous texture inside. The outer shell is crisp and completely belies the glorious squishiness within. They aren’t overly cheesy in flavour either so it’s oh-so-easy to eat an entire tray of them, straight from the oven.
Unfortunately I’ve had no luck making Pão de Queijo since first enjoying them at the Brazilian barbecue restaurant in Thredbo five years ago. I vowed to recreate them in my own kitchen and tried various recipes but to no avail. I either couldn’t make the mixture smooth enough (it does require some elbow grease) or the flour wasn’t right. I settled on getting a yearly fix of the puffs at the snow or lashing out at a local bakery that made them for $2.50 a pop.
Finally with a Thermomix on my team and a new sense of determination from having adopted a largely gluten free diet this year, I decided to give Pão de Queijo another shot. I sourced some good tapioca flour from my local Asian grocer and found a great recipe that explained the process much better than anything else I’d seen. I have converted the recipe for use with the Thermomix but I recommend taking a look at the original as the process photos are spot-on.
I nearly cried when my first attempt using this recipe reaped a tray of gorgeous, puffy, crispy Pão de Queijo. Biting into them was just an absolute delight; so moreishly chewy in the same way Japanese mochi rice cakes are. Subsequent attempts were also successful although I soon learnt to know what texture the dough had to be to result in the perfect cheese bread. If the mixture is too runny, the puffs will be flat (but still delicious) and if too dry, the centre won’t be as chewy (but still delicious!).
I also made a batch using some leftover Roquefort cheese which took things to another level but you will need to take care not to let a softer cheese cause the mixture to go too runny. As I mentioned above, your puffs will end up a little flat as the mixture is hard to handle and can’t hold its shape for long. I think other hard cheeses such as Manchego would work a treat if you get bored of the standard Parmesan mixture.
All I know is that I can’t wait to try! Sooo good :)
- 1 cup whole milk (I used Hi-Lo milk with no problem)
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (10 ounces) tapioca flour or sour cassava flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 - 1½ cups Parmesan cheese (or ¾ Parmesan and small piece of blue cheese)
- Note - You can get tapioca flour from most Asian grocers and for a lot cheaper than health food stores etc. You can also use Cassava flour if you can find it. I am not sure about whether you can get sour versions of either but I imagine the Asian tapioca flour is 'regular'. The puffs came out wonderfully.
- Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C or 210°C fan-forced). Prepare a lined or greased baking tray.
- Place milk, oil and salt in TMX bowl and heat to 100C. This should not take much longer than a minute and a half but will depend on how cold the base ingredients are. I'd hang around at this stage and stop the TMX once the 100C light goes on. You don't want to boil the mixture.
- Add the tapioca flour and process on Speed 5 for 10 seconds or until dough is well combined. There will be a point where the TMX will struggle to turn the dough as there's not enough liquid but that's fine. The dough will be "grainy and gelatinous" at this point.
- Let dough stand in the TMX bowl until cooled down to the 50/37C mark. Give the dough a couple of shots of Turbo. The dough should be easy to handle between your fingers and lukewarm to the touch.
- Crack one egg into the TMX bowl and mix the dough on Speed 5 for a few seconds. The egg should get incorporated fairly easily. Add the other egg and blitz again on Speed 5 until well combined. Again, the dough will start getting hard to turn.
- Place cheese into TMX bowl and beat in until fully incorporated with another few seconds of Speed 5. The resulting dough will be very sticky, stretchy, and soft with a consistency between cake batter and cookie dough.
- You can use a spoon or ice cream scoop to form balls but I ended up using my hands, keeping them wet with cold water between scoops. I found I could manipulate the crazy dough quite easily. If you use a spoon or scoop, it's best to keep them wet also.
- Transfer the tray with the puffs to the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 350°F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the puffs have puffed, the outsides are dry, and they are just starting to color. Cool briefly and eat.
- Puffs are best eaten ASAP but leftovers can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week and re-crisped in a warm oven or toaster oven. I even froze some and they were still pretty good once heated up.