Sunday, October 9, 2011
Pão de Queijo
Also known as Brazilian Cheese Rolls. Also known as the most delicious balls of cheesy yumness you will ever eat.
My mom comes from Minas Gerais in Brazil, and if you ever drop by someone's house for a visit, you won't leave without being served warm pão de queijo. These are little puffs made of cheese and manioc (yucca) flour, and they are chewy and delicious! This is one of those dishes where everyone's grandma has their own special way of making them, and this is my grandma's recipe. It's a pretty typical one, and easy to make, so my mom and I decided to make it yesterday and teach you all how to do it too!
This recipe is soo much easier to make with two people, because you are going to stick your hands in the dough and make a mess (and who wants to do something that is that much fun by themselves??) Here we go...
You start with a big bowl. Our flat wooden one is actually special for making these, but any large bowl will do.
Here is the Brazilian yucca flour we use. This is hard to find outside of Brazilian supermarkets, but I've been told that you can substitute tapioca starch just fine. You mix 5 cups of this...
...with just under a tablespoon of salt...
...in the big bowl. Using your hands, make a large well in the center.
Now take a cup of water and a cup of oil. We use vegetable oil, but soy or canola works fine too.
Heat the liquids in a small saucepan until boiling.
Here's where it gets a little tricky. You want to pour about half of the oil in to the well...
... and mix it in using your hands. CAREFUL, the oil is BOILING. You can start the mixing with a wooden spoon if it's just too hot to handle, but try to do as much as possible with your hands. Then mix in the second half of the oil, also using your hands as much as possible. You want to incorporate all of the oil and really kneed the dough - this is what gives the rolls their great texture.
After kneading, the dough should have this texture. It is moist but still grainy.
Then you're going to need 5 eggs. Mix these in one at a time, still using just your hands.
The dough will look like this after all the eggs are added.
Then it's time for the cheese. Usually a special Brazilian cheese is used, but we decided to try using Pecorino Romano, because it's the closest to the one traditionally used. It ended up working out great.
Shred about 5 cups (loosely packed) of it. I think if anything has 5 cups of cheese, you know it's going to be good...
Mix it in with your hands!
Now it's time for the final step. You need 1 1/2 cups of cold milk (I know this only shows one cup, we added more to it later).
Mix it in gradually, still using your hands. Be warned, this dough is EXTREMELY sticky (this is where doing it with someone else comes in handy - one person pours while the other mixes).
It should look like this after all the milk is mixed in. Now it's time for rolling!
You want to oil your hands to keep the dough from sticking to them, and make small even balls. We used a small cookie scoop (1.5 tbsp) to measure it out. This recipe will make about 75, and they freeze really well. We like to flash-freeze the rolled balls (freeze them on a baking sheet and then put them in bags) so we can defrost them whenever we want, but feel free to bake them like this too (but spread them out more than we did - they are close together just for the flash-freezing).
Warm up the oven to 350 F...
...and stick them in there for 30 minutes, or until just starting to brown (the time is about the same for the frozen or room temperature ones). Smelling good...
Yum! They are best eaten when still warm.
This is what they look like in the middle. Don't worry, they are fully cooked - they are supposed to be moist and chewy like this.
The best part of this for my mom is, these are naturally gluten-free!
These are great on their own, or with a cup of coffee, but there are a few things you can do with them too. Brazilians like to make little ham sandwiches. Here at home we like sandwiching them with something sweet - dulce de leche or jam is great. We had some with fig jam, which was delicious.
Please please please go try these if you like anything cheesy... or chewy... or really if you want to try something new that is super delicious! Let me know how it goes :)