A few years ago, I ran across a recipe for a cheesy Portuguese bread from Brazil called pao de queijo, (pronounced POW gee KAY-zho) and it piqued my curiosity because of the ingredients and the technique used. These Brazilian cheese balls are served in that country either with strong coffee for breakfast, or later in the day as an appetizer with cocktails. It’s particularly popular served with the national cocktail known as the caipirinha (ky-pe-REEN-ya), which is made with fresh lime juice, sugar and cachaca (ka-SHA-sa), a spirit distilled from sugar cane that’s said to taste like a cross between tequila and rum.
As you all probably know by now, I love to make bread–sandwich bread, rye bread, pancakes and waffles, Boston brown bread, tortillas (corn and flour), German stollen, popovers, banana bread, King cake (which is actually a sweet buttery yeast dough made for Epiphany and/or Mardi Gras), pizza, pretzels–I just love to make bread! Right now, I have eleven different kinds of flour and a variety of whole grains in our kitchen so I can make just about any kind of bread at the drop of a hat. The recipe for pao de queijo that I originally used was made with a technique called pate a choux, a somewhat messy and involved procedure that pretty much requires a stand mixer, like a KitchenAid. Then, I stumbled on the recipe below which just requires throwing everything into a blender; the results are every bit as good as the more involved recipe and it’s about 20 times faster with less cleanup.
I’ve made these delightful Brazilian cheese balls a number of times over the years for family and friends and everyone always loves them. The recipe is made with tapioca flour, which is gluten-free, and can be found in many larger grocery stores these days. I’ve found Bob’s Red Mill is the brand most often available where I shop, and I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s carries their own brand.
Back in October, when I made these for the bread club at our mobile home park, I got an enthusiastic response with a request to teach them how to make the recipe. I’ll be doing that next week so they can make them for a bowl game that everyone may or may not be watching on Super Sunday, February 7th. We’ll also be making German soft pretzels using a recipe from Kim Ode’s Baking Central in the Taste section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
I told Joe that we should do a post so all of you can win friends and influence people with these marvelous little Brazilian cheese balls. They’re easy, fast, gluten free, and pretty inexpensive, but most of all, delicious. Leftovers (highly unlikely, but possible) can be refrigerated and reheated briefly in the oven or microwave.
The recipe is so simple that you can make these start to finish in about half an hour. Just start your oven, spray your mini muffin pan, throw all of the ingredients into a blender and let ‘er rip, then put the batter into the muffin pan, put a pinch of cheese on top of each one, and slide it into the oven for 15 minutes.
Your house will be filled with the wonderful aroma of cheesy goodness and you’ll be rewarded with one of the tastiest treats ever. Our favorite way to make these is with half Pecorino Romano cheese and half Parmesan cheese, but you can use cheddar, or other cheeses. I’ve found a combination of at least two different kinds of cheese really kicks up the flavor. And please don’t even consider using anything but freshly grated cheese. To fill a half cup will only require a few seconds of grating and the flavor will be 50 times better than if you bought something pre-shredded from the deli in a little container, or in a green box from the grocery section.
Seriously, you owe it to yourself to try this recipe this weekend, then make it for your next gathering of family and friends, or just because it’s Wednesday. You’ll love it.
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Brazilian Cheese Balls for the Big Game
- 1 egg , room temperature
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz or 170 grams) tapioca flour
- 1/2 cup (packed) finely grated cheese (parmesan, romano, asiago, cheddar, manchego)
- plus a little more grated cheese for sprinkling on top before baking
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Use a non-stick spray in each of the 24 mini-muffin pan cups
- Put the ingredients into a blender in the order given, put the top on the blender, and pulse on low for a few seconds.
- Scrape down the sides of the blender, then replace the top and blend on high for a few seconds more, until the batter is smooth.
- Fill the cups of the muffin pan; each cup holds about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the batter.
- Put a pinch of additional grated cheese on top.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then immediately turn out of the muffin pan onto a serving plate or basket.
- Serve hot.
- Leftovers may be briefly reheated in the oven or microwave.