This is our favourite Brazilian cheese bread recipe. The mixture of two different starches added to the Brazilian semi-cured cheese result in a very tasty cheese bread, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. In addition to learning how to make your own cheese bread, we also explain the function of each ingredient so that you can explore the countless adaptations out there.
Cheese bread is one of the most famous Brazilian snacks. Personally, we could only understand the real importance of this Brazilian food heritage when we lived for a few months in the state of Minas Gerais, the birthplace of this delight. There, baking a batch of cheese bread for someone is synonymous with welcoming, caring and memories.
The eternal search for the perfect Brazilian cheese bread recipe
What does a good cheese bread look like? It depends on each personal preference. There are people who prefer crunchy on the outside and well-aerated on the inside while others enjoy it dense and very chewy. Although there are many varieties of cheese bread recipes, the basis of these recipes does not change much. The preparation takes only a few ingredients and each one has its particular role in the final result.
Basic ingredients for making homemade Pão de Queijo
Tapioca Starch (aka tapioca flour)
Tapioca starch is made out of a root widely available in tropical countries, called cassava (also known as yuca or manioc). In Brazil, tapioca starch comes in two versions, the regular tapioca starch (polvilho doce) and the sour tapioca starch (polvilho azedo), which is obtained from fermented cassava root.
Pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) can be made with both types of starches, even better with a mix of them. The sour starch makes the dough rise more, become more airy, crunchy and dry. The regular starch makes the dough more dense and soft.
Although it might be difficult to find the sour tapioca outside of Brazil, I highly recommend it. If you want to give it a try, you can get it from Amazon (here). Now, if you are craving to bake your own pão de queijo and don’t have the sour tapioca flour, just use the regular one for the entire recipe.
In Brazil, the most common cheese used for making pão de queijo is a semi-cured cheese with about 2 to 3 weeks of maturation, commonly made with raw milk, from the regions of Canastra, Araxá or Serro. Either way, it works with any cheese that is hard enough to grate. Please note that the more water and/or fat the cheese has, the denser the cheese bread will become. As an alternative for Brazilian cheese, my best recommendation would be gruyere, comté, or any semi-hard cheese.
Attention to very hard cheeses, like Parmesan. If you use it, you may need more eggs or fat to make the dough homogeneous, however, you can add some parmesan together with the main cheese to give a more intense flavour to the bread.
Fat helps to retain moisture and affects the texture. More fat means softer, but the excess of fat can make the cheese bread too heavy. The fats used vary between oil, butter, lard or other natural fats.
Water or milk
The liquids serve to dissolve the dough and together with the fat help in the gelatinization of the starch (scalding process). Many traditional cheese bread recipes take milk, however, milk tends to make the dough softer and harder to work with.
It acts as an emulsifier, making the mixture more homogeneous, it is also a foaming agent that gives structure to the cheese bread. In addition, it helps with colouring and provides proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Enhances the flavour, if the cheese used is already well-salted, the salt can be dispensed from the recipe.
To scald or not to scald the starch?
According to traditional methods, the starch needs to be scalded in order to get gelatinised, which improves digestibility and makes it more aerated. Many modern cheese bread recipes skip this step, but in my opinion, it is worth scalding the starch to get a better result.
Our cheese bread recipe is made with a mix of starch (sour and sweet starch), the result is a crispy cheese bread on the outside and soft on the inside. Now that you know the role of each ingredient, you can make any adjustments you want. To tell you the truth, it is difficult to go very wrong!
And the good news is, you can freeze it so that you can bake your homemade cheese bread at anytime you want.
Recipe: Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
- The recipe can be made in a stand-mixer with paddles or by hand.
- 1 cup tapioca starch – (polvilho doce)
- 2 cup sour tapioca starch – (polvilho azedo)
- 1 ½ cup semi-hard cheese – grated
- 1 ½ cup water
- ¼ cup oil
- 2 eggs – beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 200 ° C.
- In a saucepan, mix the water with the oil and bring it to boil.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the regular starch with the sour starch and salt.
- As soon as the mixture of water and oil boils, scald the starch, that is, pour the hot liquid little by little over the starch mixture. Stir well with a spatula until it has absorbed all the liquid.
- Wait for the mixture to cool down before continuing to the next step. Otherwise, the eggs will cook and the cheese will melt with the heat.
- When the mixture is cold enough, add the grated cheese and mix well.
- Add the eggs and mix well until the dough has incorporated all the ingredients.
- To shape the cheese bread, put a little oil in your hands, take some of the dough and make small balls. If the dough is too runny you can get the help of a scoop or put it in the fridge a little bit.
- Bake it for about 30 min or until golden brown.
- Serve it warm.
Serve with coffee, butter and cream cheese to spread on the cheese bread.