This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!” taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!
These are like little gooey balls of cheesy goodness. And the really surprising thing about them is the main ingredient: manioc starch. There is no flour in these rolls, thus making them gluten-free. The manioc starch forms a thin, crispy shell on the outside of the buns while the center has pockets of air and a cheesy, soft texture. The inside should almost looked under-baked. They will not brown much, if at all, while baking so look for the puffy shape and the cracks in the crust as your mark that they are done. The cheese of course adds to the cheesiness of these but the taste and texture of the manioc in this will fool you into thinking the entire inside is made of cheese! Glorious!
Polvilho doce, or sweet manioc starch, is made from fresh juice of the cassava plant, a root vegetable you might know as the yucca plant. Manioc starch is a white, powdery, flour-like ingredient that can be used in baking, gravies, sauces, etc. There is also a sour type of this starch called polvilho azedo which is the byproduct of fermented manioc juice. Many of the recipes I read for Pao De Queijo used some of each starch. Unfortunately for me, this a hard-to-find ingredient here in Buffalo, NY so I ended up ordering the sweet variety on amazon.com. If you are able to find both, you can use 2/3 sweet and 1/3 sour starch. I wouldn’t recommending using only sour but using only sweet produces wonderful results! (I have also seen this product called tapioca starch (just be careful not to use the flour by accident).
From what I’ve read, these are quite prevalent in Brazil. Being made in homes with passed-down recipes and sold as frozen dough balls in grocery stores. Which leads me to my next point: they really are best fresh! So make what you need, put the remaining raw balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, freeze them and then store in a plastic storage bag. You can bake them up as you need them from their frozen state (just tack on a few extra minutes of cooking time).
If you do have leftovers, which of course I did, you can make little sandwiches with them, paninis or use them as buns for sliders! They are still delicious, they just loose that magical, gooey texture that they have when hot out of the oven. I haven’t tried this yet, but I have read that if you thin the batter a bit you can also make waffles with it! YUM!
I do so love being a part of the Daring Kitchen because, without it, I likely never would have heard of manioc starch, let alone Pao De Queijo!
There is an excellent post onPao De Queijo over at Dulce Delight with a video showing how to make these delights!
PÃO DE QUEIJO (Brazilian Cheese Breads)
(Adapted from “Cheese Breads” on http://www.delightdulce.com)
- 525g regular/sweet manioc starch
- 1 ½ tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. fine kosher or sea salt
- ½ tbsp. granulated sugar
- ¼ cup canola, corn or vegetable oil + additional oil for greasing hands
- 1 1/3 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 8 oz. Monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 2 oz. Manchego Cheese, grated (may substitute additional Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in the center position. Prepare 2 sheet trays with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Heat milk, butter, oil, salt and sugar in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent possible boil-over. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Sift manioc starch into the bowl of a stand mixer
- Pour the hot milk mixture over the manioc mixture and stir with a fork until it forms a lumpy mixture.
- Place bowl on stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed to break down the lumps further and until the mixture cools down.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium speed, incorporating the first before adding the second. Mix until it forms a creamy, pliable dough. It will be on the sticky side.
- Add the grated cheeses to the mixture and mix well.
- Lightly coat palms of your hands with oil and roll dough into balls (of desired size, but the size of golf balls is a good start) and place them on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. (OR if your dough is very soft and sticky you can choose to pipe it onto your baking sheets).
- Bake for 18-22 minutes (depending on size, larger balls will need a bit longer to cook) or until lightly golden brown on the bottoms. Do not over-bake. Middles may appear slightly “raw” after cooking but that is just the texture. Serve hot.
- Balls of dough may be frozen raw on a sheet tray and then stored in a plastic storage bags. Cook from frozen as desired (allow a few minutes additional cooking time in this case).
- Immediately after baking a filling can be piped into the center of these much like a Profiterole. A savory cream cheese filling would be delicious (cream cheese mixed with herbs like chives, thyme or dill and a bit of salt and pepper).