When I was 16 I left for a year in Minas Gerais, Brazil, as an exchange student. I learned Portuguese completely by immersion. I lived with a wonderful family and I made dear Brazilian friends. I spent some of the best moments of my life traveling around that gorgeous, surprising, diverse, fascinating country with other foreign exchange students from all over the world, some of whom I have since visited in their home countries and one who visited me last month after 22 years.
Also, it exposed me to Brazilian food. I returned the USA a transformed person! Wiser! More flexible! More open-minded! And about THIRTY POUNDS HEAVIER!
There are so many lovely Brazilian dishes that I miss; fried manioc, brigadeiros, fresh passion fruit and the juiciest pineapple I've ever tasted, Brazilian hotdogs and hamburgers, Guarana, caipirinhas, feijao tropeiro, pudim.
And the grand queen of all: pao de queijo. (There should be a tilde over that a, but I haven't figured out how to do that on my browser.)
Pao de queijo translates to cheese bread, but they are more like little eggy, cheesey rolls or balls. They are the best. I tried to replicate them once I returned home, but finding manioc flour and the elusive queijo de Minas, or Minas cheese from the state of Minas Gerais, was essentially impossible in the 90s in northern Wisconsin. I tried a few mixes but was disappointed with the results and accepted the idea that I couldn't make it myself. Certain Brazilian restaurants have pao de queijo; there are many in NYC.
But then, you guys, Zaira visited.
Zaira, one of my best Brazilian friends from that year as an exchange student, showed up with a pao de queijo recipe that uses a specific mix as a jumping off point for almost perfect pao de queijo. I'll stop talking and let you go ahead and make it yourself. My notes follow and you should find them helpful.
Pao de Queijo
1 kg (35.2 oz) size bag of Amafil Quick Cheese Bread Mix, available on Amazon 8 eggs milk 0.5 kg (I use two 8 oz bags ) finely shredded mozzarella 0.5 kg (I use one 8 oz bag; when I used more they turned out a little bitter) finely shredded Parmesan
Pour the mix into a large bowl. Probably the biggest one that you have. Add all of the eggs and mix until combined. Substitute milk for the water in the instructions on the bag. Add milk in small amounts and mix with your hands until dough is sticky but still stiff enough to roll into balls. Mix in cheese, half of a bag at a time, with your hands until well combined. Roll into balls about 1.5 inches in diameter. Place balls at least an inch apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or freeze and store. Frozen pao de queijo may be baked frozen at 400 degrees for 17-20 minutes.
When shopping you will run into other mixes. I have only used the Amafil brand for this recipe because that was the recommendation. I don't know if it would work with other dry bag mixes but if you give it a try let me know how you fare!
My husband did the grocery shopping for one batch and brought home some coarsely grated mozzarella. That batch was not as successful so aim for the finely grated stuff.
Mixing the cheese into the egg/milk/mix combination was time consuming and required a bit of strength and leverage. I highly recommend using your hands and doing some squeezing! If you find that you cannot mix in any more cheese, you may stop. It should be plenty!
We made these in January in Wisconsin. And while there wasn't any snow yet (boo hiss!), it was below freezing outside. It was good fortune since all I had to do was put the cookie sheets of uncooked balls of dough on our screened in porch outside. They froze beautifully overnight. In fact, the most difficult part of this recipe was making sure Mabel, our hungry dog, didn't get to them while they froze. Once they were frozen, they were put into ziplock bags and stuck in the freezer. I could make a dozen at a time or just three to enjoy with my coffee. Ok, five to enjoy with my coffee.
Enjoy this little taste of Brazil! (and a sneak peek of our dog.)