Pao de Queijo is what these buns are called in their native land of Brazil. Bread of Cheese. It has a musical, delicious ring to it, does it not?
Made from tapioca flour, they are an undeniably different, yet deeply satisfying spin on a conventional cheese bun. The tapioca flour is starchy, making a texture that is chewy and toothsome. The garlic lends a depth of flavor, the cheese some fine, flavorful umami. Serve them with salads, soup, or anything that goes with a cheese bun (everything, essentially).
They’re best eaten warm and fresh, too, as they deflate a bit when they cool. Luckily, they are quick and easy to prepare. We’ve experimented with cheeses from Parmesean, Pecorino, and Asiago, to aged cheddar to feta; each brings it’s own flavor to the table, and each was delicious. Salty, flavorful cheeses tend to work best; cheddar brings a lovely golden hue to an otherwise pale dough. A wetter cheese like feta may require the addition of a bit of extra starch.
A note on tapioca flour. Depending on the brand, the level of starchiness, and absorbency can vary. Ideally, this dough has a dense texture that allows it to be dolloped onto a baking sheet to make a free-form dinner roll. Sometimes, however, the addition of eggs, however slowly, causes the dough to become too slack to reliably form rolls. In this case, adding up to 1/2 cup more tapioca flour can help, or the rolls can be baked in a muffin tin. Even a runny dough will create a lovely, puffy dinner roll when baked in a small, greased muffin tin. For this recipe, we used Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour; the recipe is adapted from one posted on the Bob’s Red Mill site, as well.
Special thanks to our dear friend Amber Turpin, who brought these buns into our collective potlucks, an instant favorite recipe which was quickly appropriated by everyone. She helped us parse the mysteries of tapioca flour, too. Somebody pass that girl a cheese bun.
Have all ingredients prepared and at hand; this recipe moves fast. Mince the garlic, beat the eggs, grate the cheese. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or muffin tin.
Scoop the tapioca flour into a mixing bowl, and make a well in the center.
In a small saucepan, combine the butter, water, milk, and salt. Heat until the butter has melted and the mixture has come to a full boil.
Pour the boiling butter mixture into the flour, beating swiftly and vigorously to combine. The dough will rapidly become smooth and elastic-looking.
Beat the garlic and the shredded cheese into the dough until well combined.
Test the temperature of the dough by sticking a finger into it. If it feels uncomfortably hot, allow the dough to sit for a minute; you don’t want to cook the eggs as you add them in the next step. If it seems hot but not burning hot, continue to the next step.
Gradually add the beaten egg mixture, a tablespoon or 2 at a time. Beat each addition until it is smooth and well combined before adding the next.
Monitor the consistency of the dough as you add the egg; if it is getting too runny to form buns, you can leave out the last tablespoon of egg, or add a touch more flour, or consider using a muffin tin to shape the buns.
Drop the mixture onto the baking sheet in golf ball-sized dollops, or pour into small muffin tins, about 2 tablespoons per bun.
Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes. These do not get as golden brown as a toasty wheat roll would, but you will start to see a little blonde blush, and a freckling of browned cheese.
Don’t overcook them; your nose will tell you almost better than your eyes when they are done.
Remove from the oven and serve hot.
Makes about 15-20 buns.
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