Gift Guide: Light, Airy Brazilian Cheese Puffs

December 4, 2016

We had snow on Thanksgiving, which especially thrilled our Brazilian guests, Fabio and Clarissa (on the extreme left). They went running out to play snow baseball and help build the snow bear family. “We don’t have snow at home,” Clarissa explained.
What they do have, however, is the great Brazilian pao de quejo,wonderful little puffs of cheesy, chewy air. Clarissa arrived bearing a bowl of dough, and we rolled them out and put them into the oven before heading outside. (Don’t you love the dog with the prune eyes?) We came back to a steamy kitchen and piles of warm puffs. (Think of these like crunchy gougeres.)
They were so delicious I asked Clarissa for the recipe.  I’m thinking of whipping up some batter and bringing it along to holiday parties; to me it seemed like an especially thoughtful hostess gift.
Here’s Clarissa’s recipe.
Pao de Quejo

– 1 package of Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour

– 1 cup of milk
– 1/2 cup of canola oil (or any other vegetable oil)
– 1 teaspoon of salt
– Approximately half a pound of ground Monterey Jack cheese
– 3 eggs
– Put the tapioca flour in a mixing bowl;
– Heat up the milk with the oil and salt. Once it starts boiling, add it to the tapioca flour;
– Knead the mixture until it resembles crumbs;
– After it has cooled off, add one egg and 1/3 of the cheese and mix it by hand. Once the mix looks homogenous (it will look like sugar icing), repeat with the second and third eggs, and the remaining cheese (one third per egg). The final dough should be sticky.
– If you want to bake them right away, use a spoon to take scoops of the dough and place them straight on a baking sheet. It will be hard to roll them by hand when the dough is fresh, but it shouldn’t be necessary. If you leave the dough in the fridge overnight, you’ll be able to roll them before baking.
– Bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes, or until the little balls look puffy and lightly golden with a couple dark spots. We like them chewy, not too crunchy.
I found a link to the original cheese.  We normally used either the cured or the half-cured version of this cheese to make them back home.
Should you want to make this into a serious Christmas present, think of throwing in a pretty platter to put the pao de quejo on. I particularly like this one, from my

neighbor, Mary Anne Davis at Davistudio.

And here’s a rather wonderful rustic Mexican serving plate from National Geographic.


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  • Alex says:

    These are delicious! I’ve been making a version of these with Parmesan for years, and the best part is they’re gluten free which is perfect for those who can’t tolerate wheat.

    Happy Holidays, Ruth!

  • Jodee says:

    These sound so yummy!

  • Alba Oliveira says:

    It is lovely to know that people in US started liking “Pão de Queijo.” This is our very loved delicated and delicious little little puffs.

  • Tana Butler says:

    Help a Californian out—is “ground” cheese the same as “grated”?

    • admin says:

      Yes, Tana. That’s what Clarissa meant. I probably should have clarified that, but I left the directions exactly as she gave them to me….

  • Adria Blotta says:

    Ruth! It’s Adria (of Adria & Claudio Blotta)! I’ve been saving this recipe to make at some point and that time has arrived =) Wondering what the yield is on this recipe – do you remember?

  • admin says:

    Hi Adria, and happy Christmas to you and Claudio.

    I wish I remember – haven’t made them in a while – but I know the recipe made a lot. Clarissa made them for our rather large group, we gobbled them up, and there was enough dough left over for me to make a second batch the next day.

    Thanks for reminding me of these; think I’ll make them Christmas eve.


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