It’s time to travel again. Let me take you to Brazil, the land best known for Bossa Nova, Giselle Bünchen, and the Amazon. Once you try one of the Pão de queijo options that I am going to give you, I believe you will add this unique offering from Brazil to the top of the list.
Our first visit to Brazil was in fact to the Amazon in 2002. We traveled with a group of teachers, students, and my sister and brother-in-law. A student at the high school where I taught was from Brazil and his father worked for TAM Airlines. He arranged an all-inclusive tour for us to Manaus and the Brazilian Amazon.
After an eleven-hour flight with a change of planes in São Paulo to get us to Manaus, we transferred our swollen ankles to a bus that would take us to our motorized launch and onwards to our hotel resort in the treetops of the Rio Negro. Here came our first introduction to Pão de queijo. At each traffic light, the bus doors would open, and up would pop a young boy or old woman offering bags of these golden puffs for a dollar or less. Being the cautious Americans that we mostly were, we declined. After a few more stops our tour guide bought a few bags and distributed the contents among us. Oh my, how sublime, and these delicate cheese rolls weren’t even warm out of the oven.
After a brief stop to shop and refresh at The Zoologico Manaus Tropical Hotel (yes, this hotel really did have a small zoo), we boarded our launch to Ariau Amazon Towers. Abandoned in 2016 this boutique hotel 60 kilometers northwest of Manaus had monkeys, pink dolphins, sloths, and birds abound and cuisine to die for. Sauces made with passion fruit and cream for prehistorically large whole fish and that infamous tapioca pudding that my sister and I discovered was served at breakfast in Brazil.
Although this magical hotel where monkeys agility gained access to your room and devoured anything pink (truly) has closed, there are other resorts that you can visit. I recommend using a tour company to arrange the logistics and for you to squeeze in as much as possible on your trip. The highlights of our visit can be seen in the gallery.
I returned to Brazil in 2007 to complete 2 different scholarships to study the Portuguese language as spoken in Brazil. The first was in Salvador, Bahia and the second was a Fulbright to create units of study on Sustainable Development in Brazil. That trip took us to several of Brazil’s states with a return to Amazonia and Manaus. What an amazing opportunity to see the diversity of the country. I took a cooking class, as well, and purchased a few ceramic and wood items to help with any ‘saudade” that I might experience. (Saudade is difficult to translate accurately, the closest meaning being “longing”.)
I am going to show you 3 methods of making these delicious little orbs. If you have a Portuguese grocery that also stocks Brazilian delicacies, you are on your way to a taste of Brazil. Those of us who are fortunate, for many reasons, to live in Palm Coast can just zip into Mellenium Grocery on Palm Harbor Village Way. They are open daily.
This is easy. Buy the packet of frozen pastry and bake from frozen following the packet instructions. The featured image was made with the frozen dough. The bowl came from an island called Itaparica, just off the coast of Salvador, Bahia. I was lead there by Christopher Idone, the author of Brazil, A Cook’s Tour. He slept in the middle of a mango grove on Itaparica and I wanted to do that. I did and I had the “mochesangue” bites to prove it. Note to self, “When mosquito nets are provided, be sure to use them.” Those little blood-sucking mosquitos left me looking like I had chickenpox on the day I flew into São Paulo to meet up with the Fulbright group that I would spend the next 4 weeks with.
A little more labor is required for this option. You will also have to add eggs, water, and grated cheese (parmesan, feta, or mozzarella), beat well, make balls and bake. The method is in Portuguese with pictures. Call me if you need help with the translation.
This the real deal. However, unless you lined them up for a tasting you might not notice the difference. The deal is that the recipe makes a ton more which you can eat in one sitting or make the dough and freeze the unbaked balls. Warning!! Whatever you bake you will eat as they are so darn good.
Before I forget, these are gluten-free! The flour is tapioca, no wheat at all!
Having eaten well over a hundred of these little cheese breads, I knew what I was looking for in taste and texture. The recipe that follows is my most authentic and delicious combination of ingredients and baking instructions that will take your stomach safely to Brazil. Aproveite!
Pão de queijo–B is for Brazil
Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats (my favorite)
Bring the milk, oil, and salt to a gentle boil over medium heat in a saucepan.. Stir occasionally. Remove it from the heat as soon as you see large bubbles.
Add all of the tapioca flour and stir with a wooden spoon until there is no more dry tapioca flour. The dough will be grainy and gelatinous.
Cool the dough by transferring it all to a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the dough for a few minutes at medium until it smoothes out and is cool enough to hold your finger against it for several seconds. There may be an oily slick that isn't fully incorporated.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time on medium speed. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
Beat in the cheese on medium until fully incorporated. The dough will be very sticky, stretchy, and soft. It will not be completely smooth.
I use a 1 1/2 level Tablespoon to make the balls. Dip the scoop in a glass of water between scoops. You may also use your hands to roll into balls. Place them about an inch and a half apart on the baking sheets. I freeze the balls of one sheet for a future time. When frozen, store in a Ziplock bag. Bake them from frozen for about the same amount of time.
Place the baking sheet in the oven. Immediately reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15 minutes then rotate the sheet from front to back. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until just starting to turn golden brown on the bottom. Cool for a few minutes and eat warm.
And finally, try not to eat them all while admiring one of the bowls purchased in Recife, Brazil. These can be served with coffee, Guarana (a Brazilian soft drink made with passion fruit), beer, or even a caipirinha (another of my favorites).