My favorite country in the world is Brazil, and my favorite food is pão de queijo.
Pão de queijo, or in English, “cheese bread,” is a frequently eaten snack that many Brazilians make to accompany their morning or late-afternoon coffee.
It’s a snack found in many homes in Brazil, as well as in bakeries and coffee shops across the country. Interestingly, its recipe is quite different depending on which state you’re in.
While I lived in Rio de Janeiro for a year, I spent a lot of time with a family I had met who was from the small town of Barosso in the state of Minas Gerais.
It was in this state, and with this family, that I truly fell in love with this thing called pão de queijo.
Doña Ana is a beautiful woman and my Brazilian grandma. There is no better cook in Barosso than Doña Ana, and her pão de queijo and coffee are evidence of her skills.
She doesn’t measure anything. There are no tablespoons of this or 1/3 cup of that.
It’s all precisely measured with her hands and her heart.
When I stay with Doña Ana, I prepare for the day my pants will no longer fit. It happens every time I visit.
She overfills my stomach with arroz, feijão, couve, batata, estrogonofe de frango, pudim, biscoitos, and my favorite—pão de queijo.
While there are many ways to make pão de queijo, I prefer the mineira way from the state of Minas Gerais. And while this is not Doña Ana’s personal recipe, it is one I enjoy and would like to share.
Pão de queijo:
(Makes 25 to 30 pieces)
>> 1 cup of milk
>> 1 cup of water
>> ½ cup of neutral cooking oil such as vegetable
>> 3 ¾ cups (15.5 ounces) tapioca flour
>> 3 medium eggs
>> 1 teaspoon of salt
>> 1 ¾ cups (8.75 ounces) queso fresco
In a large saucepan, mix together the milk, oil, and salt on medium heat. Cool on medium heat for a few minutes and then turn up the heat and bring the liquid to a boil. After a minute, remove from heat.
Add the tapioca starch into the saucepan with your warm milk mixture and use a large spoon until the mixture is smooth. Let mixture cool until it is not too hot to pick up. (Be careful to allow it to cool enough, because pockets of the dough may burn your hands if you pick it up too quickly.)
After the mixture cools down, place it in a large mixing brown and eggs and knead. Add in your queso fresco until the dough is smooth.
Cover the bowl with plastic and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then, take the dough out of the fridge, and grease your hands with oil (I recommend olive oil). Take half a golf-ball size amount of dough and roll into a log. (People from the state of Minas roll them into logs instead of balls.)
When the mixture reaches room temperature, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and knead well. Add grated cheese and knead until the dough becomes smooth and shiny. Cover the bowl with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Space logs 1 ½ inches apart on a baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the bread is golden.
I recommend eating them warm, but people eat them cold as well. They are wonderful with coffee for breakfast or a late afternoon coffee break. Enjoy!
Author’s note: this recipe was adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s recipe found here.