Make this Brazilian Pão de Quejo Cheesy Gluten Free Bun Recipe

Pao de Queijo

Active time:45 minutes

Total time:1 hour 25 minutes

Servings:Makes 24 small buns

Active time:45 minutes

Total time:1 hour 25 minutes

Servings:Makes 24 small buns

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I bake a lot of bread, but even I get tired of the general admonition not to eat it until it’s completely cool. Sometimes you just want to tear into something hot and soft.

That’s where this pão de queijo recipe comes in. Brazil’s gluten-free cheese rolls are “great to eat straight out of the oven,” says chef Francisco Carvalho of Washington’s Copacabana Brazilian Cuisine.

“If you cut one open fresh from the oven, you’ll see translucent starchy strands stretching between the two halves of your bun,” writes Maricel E. Presilla in “Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America,” the recipe’s source I share with you Let the steam wash over your face, inhale the smell of the cheese, then tear it into sweet, chewy puffs. A rare moment of bliss in an increasingly troubled world.

Also from ‘Gran Cocina Latina’: Cuban Beans and Rice (Moros y Cristianos)

Anyone who has visited a Brazilian steakhouse in this country has probably come across pão de queijo, served in a basket. In Brazil they are on the table all day long, in the morning with coffee or in the evening with a drink. You can even find them stuffed with jam or more cheese. Carvalho says that sometimes when he’s feeding kids, he cuts them up and puts a little meat and cheese inside for a tiny sandwich pocket.

If you’re familiar with making French choux pastry for Pão de Queijo’s cousin gougeres (as well as cream puffs and eclairs), the idea is somewhat similar but less finicky. First you heat a mixture of butter, milk and salt. This is stirred into the cassava flour or yuca starch, after which you add cheese and a few eggs. Gently bring it together by hand so the dough doesn’t bunch up too much and the cheese strands stay intact. Form into balls and bake. That’s it.

The gluten-free cassava flour is an essential part of this recipe, but you have leeway with the cheese. Presilla uses Parmesan (or Argentinian Sardo cheese), which is a pretty good substitute for Brazil’s Queijo Mineiro, a cheese from the state of Minas Gerais that claims to be the creation of Pão de Queijo. Feel free to experiment with any cheese you like, although something on the firm side with a salty rim is ideal. Carvalho recommends choosing a cheese that is easy to shred.

Pão de queijo are not a day project. Nevertheless, you should allow yourself about 90 minutes from start to finish. However, you can freeze partially baked puffs that you can pull out right away to enjoy hot and fresh. Pão de queijo is something you “make with love and time,” says Carvalho. Both are worth it.

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  • About 2 1/4 cups (285 grams/10 ounces) cassava flour (also known as yuca starch)
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick/56 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups (4 oz / 113 oz) finely grated parmesan cheese (can substitute any salty semi-hard cheese of your choice)
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing hands

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place cassava flour in a large bowl.

Combine milk, butter, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to melt butter. Pour the milk mixture over the cassava flour and whisk with a wooden spoon. The dough will feel dense and will set into a ball. At first it may seem like it won’t come together, but keep stirring, pressing, and folding until it forms a single mass. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.

After the batter has mostly cooled (it may still be a little warm – that’s okay), add the eggs and cheese to the bowl. While you can stir or fold with a wooden spoon, using your hands to bring the dough together is most effective. Make sure the eggs and cheese are fairly well distributed, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. The more you work or beat the dough, the harder it will be to shape.

Lightly oil your palms and pull out a 1-ounce (28-gram) portion of dough, about the size of a ping-pong ball. Form into a smooth ball as best you can and repeat with all of the dough, about 24 servings total. As you work, place the balls of dough on the lined baking sheets, 12 per pan. (They will spread, but not dramatically.)

Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake a sheet pan for 18 to 20 minutes, until the buns are puffed up and a rich golden color. (See NOTE for partial baking and freezing instructions to get ahead.) If you prefer a slightly crispier top, give them an additional 1 to 2 minutes, but keep an eye on them as they can quickly start to burn. Before baking the second batch, turn the oven temperature back down to 450 degrees, then lower it to 375 once you start baking (the high temperature initially helps the buns start popping right away).

Let the rolls cool on the pan for a few minutes, then serve hot or warm.

NOTE: You can freeze partially baked Pão de Queijo. Bake them for half the time, about 10 minutes, then let cool completely, about 30 minutes, before packing in an airtight container and freezing. To serve, bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes (do not thaw) until puffed and deep golden.

Calories: 94; total fat: 4 g; Saturated fat: 2 g; cholesterol: 26 mg; sodium: 151 mg; carbohydrates: 11 g; fiber: 0 g; sugar: 1 g; Protein: 3 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a nutritionist or nutritionist.

Adapted from “Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America” by Maricel E. Presilla (WW Norton & Company, 2012).

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions

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Chris Estrada

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