Tag Archives: tapioca

Pão de Queijo

It’s Cheesefare Week, a.k.a. Butter Week, for Orthodox Christians, this week before Lent. That prompts me to post this recipe again, for Brazilian Cheese Rolls. Maybe you have found them in the freezer aisle of Trader Joe’s or elsewhere in recent years, but they are easy to make at home. They are full of eggs and cheese, and gluten-free, because the starchy component is tapioca flour. I am fond of the mochi texture, and will likely enjoy a few this week.

I’ve copied below what I found on the website years ago, and also linked to the site, where the author shares some of the culture behind the eating of these rolls in Brazil, where they are very popular, to put it mildly, and often eaten for breakfast. The pictures are of my own results.

Pão de Queijo

There seems to be widespread consensus that these are quite tricky to make, but I didn’t find this to be the case. One thing I would recommend is to measure the tapioca starch by weight if you can, which is infinitely more reliable than by volume. If you do measure by volume, note that I use the lightly-aerate-then-scoop-and-level method. In the recipe I’ve given some clues as to the texture you’re aiming for in the dough – the important thing to note is that it should not actually be firm enough to make balls, but rather soft, misshapen little mounds. If you’re worried, you can always test-bake a couple to see if they puff up like they should. As for the tapioca starch/flour, you should be able to locate some in an Asian or other ethnic market (where you might find it under the names yuca, manioc, cassava or polvilho azedo/doce, any one of which will fit the bill), or any place that stocks gluten-free baking supplies.

yield: 20-30 rolls, depending on size
source: adapted from Valentina and other online sources

4 cups (500g) tapioca starch (aka polvilho, yuca, manioc or cassava flour/starch), plus more if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups (375ml) milk
1/2 cup (115g/125ml) unsalted butter or vegetable oil (oil is traditional, butter gives more flavor)
2 eggs, at room temperature
7oz (200g) finely-grated parmesan cheese

In the bowl of your heavy-duty stand mixer* combine the salt and tapioca starch. In a saucepan combine the milk and butter and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment, turn on medium-low, and begin drizzling in the hot milk mixture. At first it will all clump up, but keep drizzling in, stopping and scraping down the bowl and paddle as necessary, until it comes together and forms a smooth, thick, gluey dough. Beat for a minute or two, then turn the mixer off, cover the bowl with a cloth and let rest for 15 minutes, or until just warm to the touch.

Preheat the oven to 425F/210C. When the dough has cooled down a bit, turn the mixer to medium speed and add the eggs one by one. When they are completely incorporated add the cheese and mix for another minute. The dough should have a sticky, stretchy consistency somewhat like spent chewing gum (but a little softer). It shouldn’t be firm enough to roll into balls, but it should be firm enough to hold its shape on a spoon. Add a bit more starch or a splash more milk if needed.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a well-greased spoon (or a couple of spoons, or a spoon and your hands – whatever works), drop mounds of dough about the size of unshelled walnuts onto the sheets, spacing them at least an inch (2.5cm) apart. Don’t worry if they are not perfectly shaped, or if the surfaces are not smooth – in the heat of the oven the irregularities will melt away. Bake them for about 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway, until they’ve puffed up nicely and are golden brown in spots. Remove immediately to cooling racks and allow them to cool slightly before eating. The recipes say to enjoy them warm, but I liked them at room temperature as well – the texture is slightly different but still very good.

(*I don’t think I’d trust a handheld mixer to confront this sticky, viscous dough and survive, but it can be mixed by hand in a large bowl with a sturdy spoon – just be prepared for a good workout!)


Brownies prompt a question.

I was searching for a different recipe when I ran across this one for brownies, which I decided to take to a potluck last week. In reading the comments on the recipe, on the New York Times cooking site, I came upon the question of whether one could use “regular” cocoa powder instead of cacao in this recipe. Because the spelling is so similar, I hadn’t even noticed that the recipe called for cacao. Cocoa is what I always keep in my cupboard, so I needed to know.

The question wasn’t answered definitively enough for me, and I soon found a long discussion of cocoa vs. cacao on a different site, comments long ago closed. Most of the chefs and cooks on that site said there was no real difference besides the spelling, though a few insisted otherwise. My take is that at least some brands of “natural cacao powder” likely retain more nutrients than cocoa. Everyone did agree that you don’t want “Dutch process” cocoa because that is used to make poor quality cacao beans saleable.

When I went to the pantry for my cocoa powder, I saw that it was cacao powder after all, a big bag I’d bought at Costco without wondering why they were using that spelling. So I didn’t have to substitute that ingredient. If I’d had both cacao and cocoa on hand, I’d have baked one pan with each ingredient, for taste-testing purposes. Maybe next time.

I loved these brownies. They seemed very rich in spite of having no butter or eggs. I ate one and a half, and felt buzzed by them, they were so chocolatey. But I slept well that night anyway.


Vegan and gluten/grain-free; adapted from the NYT recipe which was adapted from Julie Piatt.

3 Tablespoons/14 grams ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
Coconut oil, for greasing pan
¾ cup chickpea flour (besan)
½ cup cacao powder
½ cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup almond meal
1 1/3 cups sugar
8 oz. Earth Balance vegan butter, softened
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 oz. dark chocolate chips
1 ½ oz unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons olive oil

1) In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed and water until mixture has an egg-like consistency. Set aside.

2) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, sift together the chickpea flour, cacao powder, tapioca flour, cinnamon, chili powder, xanthan gum, salt and baking soda. Add almond meal and stir until fully incorporated.

4) In a double boiler or in the microwave melt the unsweetened chocolate and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.

5) Whisk the flaxseed “egg” again, then put in the bowl of a stand mixer along with the sugar, vegan butter, almond milk and vanilla. Stir on low. Gradually increase speed to medium-high and continue beating until mixture is fully combined and mostly smooth, 5-7 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and olive oil and beat for 15 seconds.

6) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until fully combined and streak-free. The batter should be thick and gooey. Add additional almond milk if it seems too dry. Fold about half of the chocolate chips into the batter, then spread it in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with the remaining chocolate chips.

7) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out mostly clean, 50-60 minutes.

The NYT recipe had more chocolate bar and chocolate chips. I added the olive oil to make up for the missing fat. I used unsweetened chocolate instead of a dark chocolate bar so I increased the sugar a tiny bit.

I doubled the recipe and baked it in a 9×13 Pyrex pan, which made for tall brownies and probably necessitated the full hour of baking.

For those interested generally in vegan cakes and brownies, this recipe, Chocolate Carrot Cake, is vegan, and has been accidentally, and then later intentionally, made into brownies. The brownie-eaters could not believe they were vegan. They are easier to make than the Mexican Brownies here in this post, but I like better the texture and complex flavors of the more involved recipe, the chili and cinnamon, almond and vanilla. Let me know if you try one or the other.

The Accidental Carrot Cake Brownie

Biscuits and Buns

In this post I will share two recipes I’ve had waiting in my Recipes-to-Try folder, and recently did get around to. I loved them both.

I found Brazilian Cheese Bread here at The Traveler’s Lunchbox. The Portuguese name is Pão de Queijo. These little buns are said to be very popular with coffee for breakfast in Brazil. (The picture at left is not of these rolls. I was afraid that if I didn’t put a colorful picture there you might not keep reading. That picture is of the biscuits I tell about further down.)

There are many recipes for the cheese buns around, with different ingredients and techniques (This one at the San Francisco Examiner looks plausible), but I will tend to stick with the Lunchbox version, as mine came out so good. One thing non-traditional in that recipe is the use of butter rather than oil. And I do love butter. I did cut down on the salt in my recipe, by 50%.

They are quite unusual, in that they are made with tapioca starch rather than flour, and therefore are gluten-free, and chewy.

The first picture I took was of the sticky dough that one puts little globs of on parchment paper. This is the unappetizing stage. But just be patient.

The rolls puff up as they bake, and while mine did come out with some “horns” and such like, they were oh-so-tender and light, while at the same time moist and tasty. I noticed that the Examiner recipe does have you make balls of the dough, which would reduce the prickly nature of the crust somewhat. But my dough was not firm enough for that.

The thin crispy crust broke open to reveal an interior that was not doughy at all, but very cheesy, with a stretchy “crumb.” No need for extra butter or anything. One eater said they were “intense.”

We all noticed the likeness to mochi, the Japanese term for food that is chewy like this and often made with a highly-refined rice flour called mochiko. I think if you like mochi-anything, you would love these buns. I’ll tell you more about mochi in another post.

Mr. Glad doesn’t like mochi, and he didn’t like the Brazilian Cheese Breads. Too bad.

I put the leftovers in the freezer, even though the original recipes say to only bake as many as you need and to freeze the balls instead, etc. This morning we put them in the microwave for a few seconds and they came out quite delicious.

The other recipe I tried last week was Sweet Potato Biscuits. I would be happy to live off sweet potatoes, and because they are almost nutritious enough for that, I like to use them in as many ways as possible.

I was a bit skeptical about how flaky a biscuit could be with the addition of vegetables, but they passed that test. Buttermilk biscuits have been my standby, so these were sweet by comparison, but not overly so. They were enjoyed by all. [lost the recipe somehow while trying to edit it at a later date. Sorry.]