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Freckled beauties

Sunday, December 2, 2012

When I was a child, I was a fan of Brazilian football  like many, I adored the superstars like Pele, Socrates and Zico. But I tell you if I had then tasted the Brazilian bread called pão de queijo, I don't know if those football greats would have even registered with me!
I first learnt about these buns from Renata over at Testado, Provado & Aprovado. Her blog is in Portuguese but put it through Google Translate and you'll read about what she considers "an eternal pleasure". Now that I've made the buns, I know exactly what she means.
The hole-y crumb
After reading up on the buns, I became aware of how popular they are and that everyone who has eaten them raves about how good they are. I won't disagree.
Pão de queijo is made with tapioca flour, which makes it gluten-free. The crust is crisp, and the crumb is... well, if you don't expect it, it can be a surprise. I actually thought the buns might be uncooked when they first came out of the oven and I broke one open to see what the inside was like: it was gummy and elastic. But after the buns cool slightly, the texture firms up although they remain springy, with a web of air pockets on the inside.
For the first batch (pictured at the top of the post), I made the buns exactly as in Renata's recipe, only I halved it. The ingredients were tapioca flour, milk, butter, salt, Monterey Jack cheese and eggs. I wasn't sure what the batter should look like –  mine was sticky and I used an ice cream scoop to shape the buns. When I left a comment for Renata at her blog, she emailed me and told me that the texture can be sticky (and is sometimes piped) or firm (and can be rolled with the hands). I got 17 buns out of the batch... and I finished all of them myself!
Clockwise from top left: Frozen unbaked buns; the second batch of buns; 'gummy' texture on the inside
When I made the buns again (pictured above), I used coconut oil instead of butter and included some grated Parmigiano Reggiano together with the other cheese. I didn't add as much egg and the dough was firmer – I could roll out balls with my hands. I made them smaller this time and got 35. I baked just four and froze the rest after shaping. This batch was a little crisper on the outside, perhaps due to the firmer dough
Today, I baked a few of the frozen buns to take with me to a meeting with some of my family. Like me, they couldn't quite decide what to make of the texture when they first bit into the pão. The rubber-like crumb was not what they had expected. But after they got over that little surprise, they really enjoyed the buns and loved the chewiness. My sister asked me to include more cheese and my mother dipped it into some curry and found it to be very tasty!
Since I have made it twice and can compare, I think I prefer the dough a little sticky. The buns seem to puff up a little more in the oven, but it's entirely up to individual tastes. I haven't recorded the process of making the buns in photos, so please visit Renata's blog for how the dough should look at each step.
Made after getting Renata's advice
Postscript, Dec 3, 2012: After this post was published, Renata left a comment (see below) and I realised that I had probably baked the buns for too long. They are supposed to be quite pale and should be taken out of the oven as soon as they start to brown. I have amended the recipe.

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
Makes 17 medium-small buns (four three-bite size). Can be easily scaled up.
125ml milk
1 tbsp coconut oil or 20g butter
½ tsp salt
250g tapioca flour (tepung ubi kayu)
125g cheese (eg. Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Cheddar), coarsely grated
1-2 medium eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200°C.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk, coconut oil and salt until small bubbles start to appear around the edge of the milk (if using butter, it should have melted). Do not allow it to come to a full boil.
Sift the flour into a large bowl and pour in the hot milk. The flour will immediately take on a gelatinous texture. Mix with a fork until the mixture is combined. There may be a few clumps, but at the next step it will be fixed.
When the mixture is cool enough to handle, rub it with your fingertips until it becomes crumbly. Stir in the cheese.
Mix in 1 egg. Stir with the fork until the mixture is hydrated and starts coming together. Add more egg until the mixture comes together into a sticky dough. You may not need to use all the egg.
Drop small spoonfuls (or use a small ice cream scoop) of the dough on a parchment-lined baking tray about 3cm apart.*
Bake the buns for about 25 minutes, or until puffed and freckled with golden brown spots just starting to brown with a few freckles. They may flatten slightly at first, but will puff up towards the end of baking time.
Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving serve them immediately.
* The unbaked buns can also be frozen. Place the balls on a tray lined with cling film or food-grade plastic and place in the freezer until hardened. Remove the balls from pan and place in a plastic bag, seal and store in the freezer. Bake them from frozen for about 5 minutes longer.
I have also baked five buns at a time in a toaster oven on HIGH  the setting just under TOAST  and they take 21 minutes from frozen to cook.


  1. Oh Jane, you made them! From your description I guess you were a little surprised with the gummy texture :)
    Actually, this is exactly what they should be like, maybe I wasn't clear on my post (sometimes I forget that non-Brazilians don't know pão de queijo hehe).
    They are best eaten hot out of the oven, if you let them cool down they will become rubbery. Also, they are usually baked only until they show the first signs of browning from the cheese bits. They should be somewhat pale so that they don't get a very hard crust.
    I'm so happy you tried them and even more that you enjoyed them! They look fantastic! I have just grabbed some from my freezer for breakfast, couldn't resist looking at your pics!
    I didn't know you were a fan of Brazilian football :)

    1. Renata, these buns were great! After I read your comment, I immediately went to bake a few of the frozen ones in the toaster oven and took them out as soon as they started to brown. Although to me they LOOK prettier when they are golden, they certainly TASTE better when they are pale! Now I understand. I want to keep the bread as authentic as possible so this is how I will do it from now on (and I will certainly be making this A LOT). Thanks so much for the recipe and all your advice! I am amending my post.

    2. I will also add these tips on my post. It's good to read about the experiences of someone who isn't familiar with Pão de Queijo.
      By the way, this is only one of a million recipes for pão de queijo. I often make "pão de queijo waffles" with a very easy batter made in a blender, then you can cook it in a waffle machine or you can use greased muffin pans, they will look similar to popovers. These are softer but delicious too! Just in case you would like to try it, the recipe is here:
      These yield a lot of waffles, so I cook them all, cool them on wire racks then freeze them in air tight plastic bags. Whenever I want to enjoy them, I just have to put them in a bread toster and they become crunchy and delicious again.

  2. I have tried these but it didn't go down well with the family...I feed them to the dog who appreciated it very much lol! Looks pretty but tastewise I am not a fan too!


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