Monday, May 6, 2013

Pão de Queijo

Have you ever been to a Churrascaria? If not, then you must go; and if you have, then you must continue to go. Churrascaria is a Portuguese/Brazilian barbecue restaurant and usually they offer "rodízio" service, which is when they come around to your table with giant skewers filled with different types of meats and offer you pieces. There's usually also a buffet with salads and other side dishes as well.

Most recently, I visited a Churrascaria and rediscovered my love for pão de queijo, which translated literally means "cheese bread." It's a Brazilian cheese bread made with tapioca flour and it's amazing. Tapioca flour makes the bread chewy and stretchy and quite different from a regular dinner roll. I've seen a few recipes that require a lot of kneading and work, but recently I stumbled upon a way to make it in a blender which takes less than 5 minutes from prep to oven.

By the way, the pronunciation of pão de queijo is a little tricky to master. I've listened to a bunch of recordings and had one of my Brazilian friends repeat it to me over and over. The best way I can describe it is to make the "pão" as nasal as possible. The 'p' should be really light, almost like a 'b' sound - think about the way the 'p' sounds in the word "sponge," and the "ão" is like a cross between "ow" and "ong." And then the "de" is more like the French word, "je" and the "queijo" sounds like, "kay-zho." Sorry, I was horrible at describing that. Google it if you'd rather hear it.

Ingredients [makes 12 to 16 mini-muffin sized rolls]:
1 cup tapioca flour (a.k.a. cassava flour)
½ cup milk (room temperature)
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove minced garlic
¼ cup melted butter (cooled to room temperature)
1 egg (room temperature)
¼ cup cheddar cheese
¼ cup asiago cheese
+ cooking spray/butter/oil for greasing the pan
** You can use any great melty cheeses you prefer. Farmer's cheese or queso fresco would be amazing.
Start by grating the cheese. I like nice big pieces because it makes the bread seem gooier but also, it's great for snacking.

And mince up some garlic. The garlic is optional, but I think it adds a lot of nice flavor and accompanies the cheesiness well.
Measure out some tapioca flour. Tapioca flour is also called tapioca starch and it's also called cassava root starch and it's also called manioc starch. It's probably unavailable in your regular grocery store but usually health food stores (e.g. Whole Foods) or Asian grocery stores carry it. And guess what? It's gluten free!
Get your blender ready.
And dump in the eggs, milk, salt, melted butter, and tapioca flour.
Blend it up until it's nice and smooth.
Then, pour the batter into a container and stir in the cheeses. Reserve a little for sprinkling on top.
Get a mini muffin pan ready. I sprayed mine down with this coconut oil spray that I purchased from Whole Foods the same day I went to buy the tapioca flour.
Pour the batter into the tin, making sure to get a bit of cheese in every cup. Sprinkle a bit of cheese on top.
Doesn't this look good already?
Bake at 350 for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the rolls are puffed up. You don't really want to get much color on these.
And take them out of the oven and remove from the tin immediately to preserve the crisp exterior.
YUMMM. I love that cheesy orange color.
And yes, they will deflate, but no, they won't lose any flavor because of it.
By the way, you can also reserve the batter in the fridge for about a week (no more) and bake off a few rolls when you're in the mood to snack.
They taste just as delicious in smaller batches.
Don't they look good?
I'm salivating as I write this post.
Cut it open and you'll reveal a mixture of gooey cheese and bubbly tapioca-based batter.
The texture is quite unlike anything else. If you've ever had tapioca pearls in your bubble tea, you know how chewy those are; this is almost as chewy.
And, because one cannot survive on bread alone, serve alongside a feast of churrasco with chimichurri.
And maybe some red rice, tomatoes, and guacamole, because why not?

Here's the recipe page:

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