You don’t have to be Brazilian to be obsessed with “pão de queijo” (Brazilian cheese bread). I argue that once you try this beauty, you’ll understand what’s so special about the mixture of this flour made from manioc and cheese.
I’m surely not here to handle a pão de queijo recipe. I find the internet is already loaded with them. I must admit that between so many options that goes from the traditional recipe from my great-aunt and the simple blender version, I make a different one every time.
And, what I’m about to say is no secret: manioc is a tropical thing and it is not that easy to find whenever you leave the tropics. With that, needless to say that, the less we have it, the more we want it.
Well, truth be told, the “cassava” flour is very trendy nowadays and, for my joy and relief, I can find some derivates of what we call “polvilho” in Chinese and Indian markets. – the guys that come from the tropics.
I’m always exploring and trying because, even though I get to find some options, I don’t have everything that I would like to have here. I mean, one can always go to Brazilian stores, but I don’t feel like selling a kidney just to get some cassava flour straight from Brazil.
I do with what I get and my pão de queijo is damn good. Besides the “ordinary” cassava flour, another thing that’s in every shelf of those Eastern markets are the “tapioca pearls”. They’re small and hard and they will get softer after they are cooked.
I’ve played around with it and there’s a cream cheese tapioca pearls crusty balls recipe here.
Nevertheless, I always want more and more and as soon as I bumped into a recipe from Helô Bacellar, that’s behind one of my favourite restaurants in Brazil – La da Venda – and makes one of the finest “pão de queijo” in the face of the earth (at La da Venda), I just had to find a way to create my own version of it with the ingredients I can find when living abroad.
If you live in Brazil and have all kinds of cassava and tapioca flours (and speak Portuguese) here is the original recipe. If you don’t have the manioc fiesta in hand and/or for those who are just curious and would like to try something different, I tested and came up with this great version of it using the stiffer pearls.
Tapioca pearls cheese bread inspired by the shop around the (Brazilian) corner
1 cup tapioca pearls
1 1/2 cup milk*
1 whole egg
1 cup grated cheese
Salt to taste
The tapioca pearls are quite hard so, to start, we’re going to soak them in milk so they’ll get a bit softer. Just leave it for an hour so it’ll get moist enough.
*If you don’t play for the lactose milk, you can replace it with any plant-based milk, just try to choose one that won’t add any strong flavour to it, but then again, it’s your bread, your taste, your choice.
Since I can’t be sure that your pearls are the same as mine, just pay attention to the pictures and the video at the end of this post for you to understand the consistency that we’re looking for.
And don’t be alarmed if you think it has too much liquid left. Just toss it out with no regrets.But here, the 1 to 1 1/2 ration was a success.
Once you have your tapioca well soaked just add the whole egg, the cheese, the salt and mix it well.
Be careful when adding the salt because the quantity will depend on the kind of cheese you’re using. Here, I normally use emmental, which is kind of the “ordinary cheese”. – I’m sure I’m about to get murdered by the French people once they see me calling “emmental” an ordinary cheese. However, I’m always up for innovation and, sometimes, I use gruyère or comté that are stronger, saltier, cheeses. In that case I barely add any salt. Just in case, you can (and should) taste the raw dough to see if it’s salty enough.
Once you have everything well mixed together, just place the gooey dough in muffin/cupcake tins and get them in the pre-heated oven 430°F for about 40 minutes.
Time may vary from one oven to another, but also depending on the size of your muffin tin. When it’s golden brown, it’s done.
It’s a very soft, moist bread and I’ll always recommend you enjoying straight from the oven, however, I can tell you it stands quite fine on the fridge for 3 days and you can heat it up on your toaster. I can’t live without my toaster!
I also tried freezing them and they do just fine. From the freezer, to the oven. Easy peasy.
It’s a nice, simple, super tasty way to attempt to use this tapioca mini balls.
And, since I can’t (and won’t) help myself, I must advice you to try different kinds of cheese (as long as they’re soft, easy to grate and if they melt). Cheddar is a nice one, for example.
For those who swapped the milk for a plant-based one because you’re lactose intolerant, you can try lac free or vegan cheeses (following the same rules). On the other hand, if you’re not at all milk or cheese know that it’s the cheese that adds flavour to the recipe, so, do not be afraid to throw in some herbs and spices.
Paprika or turmeric powder will not only add flavour, but a nice strong color to it. Oregano, rosemary, basil… all herbs are you best friends. What about some chopped olives or capers and you can even throw a tea spoon of a good olive oil (not too much to preserve the consistency of the dough).
You shall not lack flavour.
Your taste and creativity are the bosses (and also the content of your pantry/fridge).
In the morning, alongside with a nice cup of (cinnamon) coffee or with a nice tea or fresh juice for an afternoon snack………………………