I come from Minas Gerais, a state in the centre of Brazil which has a great culinary tradition. To us, the kitchen is the heart of the house. When you arrive at a Mineiro’s home, you are invited to the kitchen for a cup of freshly brewed coffee and some quitanda (baked goods). One of ours favourite treats to offer is pão de queijo. This is a tapioca cheese roll with a crispy outside and chewy centre. The main recipe ingredients are tapioca flour and cheese.
Tapioca flour is the starch extracted from the cassava root. Some people use regular tapioca flour, called polvilho doce, and some use the sour version, called polvilho azedo. The cheese rolls made of regular tapioca flour tend to be more dense and has a subtle flavour. The ones made only with sour tapioca flour become bigger, dryer and has a strong flavour coming from the starch. I like to use a mixture of them to get o good balance in flavours and textures. It is easy to find tapioca flour in Brazilian shops, organic and whole markets, and even in Amazon. The best ones I recommend to buy in UK are Yoki and Zaeli.
For the cheese, we use a cured local variety, known as queijo minas curado. The state of Minas Gerais produce the best cheeses in Brazil. Unfortunately, it is not possible to find them abroad. But I’m lucky that UK produces amazing cheeses. I did some research and ran tests at home. With the help of some friends I could find a good mixture of cheeses to get the best flavour and texture to pão de queijo.
There are many different methods to prepare pão de queijo. For a traditional recipe, there are some important steps if you want to achieve the right texture and flavour. I would like to share the same method I learned from my family, a recipe handed down for generations, adapted to UK ingredients.