Milk Street: Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo)

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Matthew Card, Food Editor of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, stopped by to share an appetizer recipe perfect for holiday gatherings – or even breakfast!

Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo)

Start to finish: 40 minutes

Makes 24 puffs

These tasty puffs—called pão de queijo—are similar to popovers, with two important differences. Tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) gives them a unique chewiness, while a generous dose of cheese makes them particularly savory. In Brazil, the cheese of choice is queijo minas curado. Without that option available to us, we found that Asiago had just the right balance of salty-sharp flavor to make delicious puffs. The flavor profile can easily be changed by using other cheeses and seasonings (see variations below). Pão de queijo are best eaten within a couple hours of baking, but the puffs can be frozen and reheated in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes (do not thaw before reheating). You will need a nonstick 24-cup mini muffin pan for this recipe.

Don't use a wand-style grater for the grating the cheese; the fine shreds form clumps that compromise the puffs' ability to rise. Grate the cheese on the small holes of a standard box grater, and do it while the cheese is cold to minimize clumping.

—Julia Rackow

  • 170 grams (1½ cups) tapioca starch
  • ? cup whole milk
  • ? cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 70 grams (1? cups) finely grated Asiago cheese, plus 12 grams (2 tablespoons) for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. In a blender, combine all ingredients but the 2 tablespoons cheese for sprinkling. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping the sides of the blender jar as needed.

Divide the batter evenly in the cups of a nonstick 24-cup mini muffin pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops, then bake until the puffs are well risen and deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Immediately transfer puffs from the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For Gruyère and chives: Substitute an equal amount of finely grated Gruyère cheese for the Asiago. After blending, stir in 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives.

For Stilton and black pepper: Substitute an equal amount of finely grated Stilton cheese (or other firm blue cheese) for the Asiago and add ½ teaspoon ground black pepper to the blender along with other ingredients.