Comparable to gougères, these light and cheesy buns feature a golden-crispy exterior and delightfully spongy center. This tasty gluten-free bread is best enjoyed warm from the oven, and is a delicious addition to the breakfast table (and it also makes for an excellent afternoon snack). Tapioca starch comes from cassava, a brown starchy tuber also known as yuca (not yucca) and is commonly labeled tapioca flour, tapioca starch, cassava starch or manioc flour. The starch can either be dried for sweet tapioca (polviho doce), or fermented (polviho azedo)—which is what you want for this recipe. This slightly sour starch is what gives pão de queijo it’s signature chewy texture and a thicker crust as opposed to the unfermented variety. If you have trouble finding this variety, Bob’s Red Mill makes a tapioca flour/starch that is not fermented, but will make a fine substitute, if need be. Traditionally, pão de queijo is made with Minas cheese, a salty, aged, and slightly soft cow’s milk cheese, but a combination of Parmigiano-Reggiano and sharp white cheddar makes a great, easily obtained, swap for this recipe. You’ll use a similar method to making a pate a choux dough for this bread. When stirring in the tapioca starch, the mixture will be very dry, but keep stirring until it is incorporated before transferring to the mixer. The dough will look scrambled after beating in the eggs, but should come together a bit more once the cheese is added. Keep in mind, it’s super helpful to spray your scoop with cooking spray after scooping each ball of dough. For this recipe, we start the oven temperature high in order to help the bread puff up, but dropping the temperature allows it to cook through without getting overly brown.
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (about 5 1/2 oz.) tapioca starch (polvilho azedo or almidón de yuca)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring milk, butter, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, quickly stir in tapioca starch until well incorporated. (Dough will be very dense and dry.) Transfer dough to a bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until dough has cooled slightly, about 1 minute. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in cheeses until combined.
Using a lightly greased 1 1/4-inch (about 1 tablespoon) scoop, drop spoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2 inches between each. Place baking sheets in oven, and reduce temperature to 350°F. Bake until golden brown and puffed, 28 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
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