Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

In 1999, I was introduced to the delicacy of Pao de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread, at Rodizio's, a Brazilian rotisserie grill in Salt Lake City. These semi-gooey balls are little bites of heaven. They're cheesy, doughy, savory, piping hot and oh so good!

Texas de Brazil in Fairfax, Va., also serves these delectable balls as a complimentary appetizer. I usually ask for five or six servings since I've never found an adequate recipe to make them at home (and I've tried a variety of recipes, some of which stink up the house pretty good).

I once asked our server if there was a recipe the kitchen could share. She inquired and reported back that the restaurant buys them frozen and reheats them. She couldn't find the packaging to show me. I was very disappointed on multiple levels ... until recently.

I came across a recipe and it looked very different from all the other recipes I'd tried. So I gave it a try. It bombed. But, I took notes, tweaked several things and created a recipe that comes pretty darn close to the restaurant version. It takes 20 minutes from start to finish and I don't have to pay $45/plate at a nice restaurant to get them.

Disclosure: I borrowed this photo from another blog because my family is too busy eating these delicacies to be able to get a picture, but mine look just like these ones.

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

1 egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
2/3 cup milk
1-2 tsp garlic powder (optional)
130 grams flour
45 grams corn starch
50 grams parmigiano reggiano, grated
50 grams queso fresco (Mexican farmer's cheese)
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease mini muffin tin. Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender to get all the extra flour bits.
2. Pour into mini muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. Bake 15 to 18 minutes until puffy and lightly browned. Serve hot.
Makes 2 dozen.

Substitution Suggestions: The recipe I based this on called for tapioca flour instead of all-purpose and cornstarch. Tapioca flour is not at generic grocery stores, so this flour-cornstarch mixture is a substitution. If you have wheat flour intolerance, use 175 grams of tapioca flour and omit the cornstarch entirely.
I tried using olive oil and rice flour. One word -- don't! The olive oil flavor overpowered everything else and the rice flour was too gritty.

ETA: I found tapioca flour and tried it (Bob's Red Mill, in case you were curious). Yep, it's a winner. It perfectly mimicked the little cheese balls that I love so much from Rodizio's.

Lessons Learned: I don't plan ahead usually, so my eggs are never at room temperature. I dropped it in a cup of warm water for a few minutes and took the chill off. It worked just fine.

When measuring the ingredients, I put my blender on my kitchen scale and measure away. Measuring queso fresco in a measuring cup is just too difficult. I put broken-up chunks of it in the blender and let the blades do the heavy lifting.

The batter should be the consistency of smooth pancake batter, perhaps a little thinner. If the batter is too thick to pour, mix in a little extra milk and/or oil.

I'm not squeamish about tasting raw egg, so I taste the batter to see if the salt content is OK. If you use all queso fresco, you will need to add more salt. If you add the parmesan (and don't use the nasty crap in the green can), you won't need more than the teaspoon the recipe calls for. If you omit the salt, your recipe will be bland.

These little balls are meant to be chewy inside, so I favor a shorter cooking time (perhaps even as short as 12 minutes). And, they are best eaten hot and straight out of the oven. I don't know how well they'll reheat, but my family of four eats all of them in one sitting, so it's not really a problem for us. If they start to cave in so they look like little volcanoes, pull them out or they'll lose the gooeyness!

The batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing all the hard work so people like me only have to google to find the recipe.