I’m fascinated by the foods of other cultures and I can happily spend days researching authentic ethnic menus and recipes to create a special meal for family and guests. A few years ago I did just that when Joe and I invited good friends over for a Brazilian dinner and today’s recipe came about as a result of that dinner. Blender Brazilian cheese puffs (aka Pao de Queijo, pronounced POWN-deh-KAY-zho) are a gooey, cheesy, two-bite treat that can be served in the morning with good strong coffee, as an after-school snack, or later in the day as an appetizer at happy hour. In Brazil, they’re particularly popular served with the national cocktail–the caipirinha–it’s like a mojito but made without mint.
I used to make the traditional Pao de Queijo recipe that uses a pastry dough similar to eclairs and cream puffs, but I discovered this faster and simpler version which is still reasonably authentic, has marvelous texture and flavor, and can be thrown together last minute.
The ingredient list for blender Brazilian cheese puffs is short, so I don’t make compromises. I always use whole milk in cooking and baking recipes for the resulting texture and keeping qualities, and in a savory recipe like this one I use extra virgin olive oil for flavor. I usually use Pecorino Romano here, but these are great with Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, Manchego, or even cheddar. Costco and Sam’s Club have reasonably priced real-deal chunks of great cheeses at about half the price per pound of little wedges elsewhere and hard cheese (in chunks) keeps a long time so I always have it on hand for pasta, salads, pizza, soups, eggs, etc. I easily and quickly shred the cheese for this recipe on my Microplane box shredder, rather than buying the pre-shredded kind that has cellulose and other non-cheese ingredients. When I’m just garnishing a dish with a hard cheese I use my Microplane zester.
You may not have ever seen or heard of tapioca flour aka tapioca starch, the ingredient that gives cheese puffs their unique texture. Tapioca flour is very finely ground, looks and feels like corn starch, and is frequently used in gluten-free recipes. It can also be used as a thickener in fruit pies in place of all-purpose flour, cornstarch, or regular tapioca. Tapioca flour is often available at stores like Whole Foods where you’ll pay $6 or $7 for a pound of it. But if you go to your nearest Asian or Hispanic grocery store, or the ethnic foods section of many large grocery stores you’ll only pay about $2 a pound, possibly less. I forgot to include the baking powder in this photo, so just pretend it’s there…
I use some of my very favorite kitchen tools when I make cheese puffs. To make sure I’m not adding too little cheese or too much tapioca flour, I measure and weigh both of those ingredients. I own and constantly use three different sizes (1/4 cup, 1 cup, and 2 cups) of the OXO liquid measuring cups because you look down at the liquid you’re measuring instead of having to crouch down and squint to see if you have the correct amount. For this recipe, I first measure the milk to the 2/3 cup level then add extra virgin olive oil up to the 1 cup level; easy peasy and only one cup to wash.
Put the egg, milk & EVOO, salt, and cheese into the blender in that order and buzz on low until it’s all blended. Then–with the machine running–remove the doohickey (technical jargon) in the middle of the blender cover and add the baking powder, then spoon the tapioca flour in and continue blending for another 30 to 60 seconds till it’s all smooth. If you need to, stop the blender and scrape down the sides of the container, then turn it on for a few more seconds.
It should look smooth like pancake batter, but thinner.
Spray a mini-muffin pan and fill the cups…
sprinkle a pinch of shredded cheese on each one…
and bake for about 15 minutes, just until they’re light golden brown.
These little beauties are like tiny cheesy popovers; resistance is futile!
You’ll have 24 blender Brazilian cheese puffs, and while you’ll be tempted to keep them all to yourself, please do share the wealth. I handed these out around the neighborhood so I wouldn’t eat them all!
All that gooey warm deliciousness is just waiting to be devoured.
These would be perfect for serving to your family and friends while you watch that certain LARGE FOOTBALL GAME that’s coming up on the first Sunday in February.
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- 1 egg, room temperature
- 2/3 cup milk, room temperature
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup packed (1 oz, 28 grams) shredded cheese plus a some more for sprinkling on top
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- Scant 1 1/2 cups (6 oz, 170 grams) tapioca flour
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Add the egg, milk, olive oil, salt, and cheese to the blender in that order and pulse until smooth.
- With the blender running, add the baking powder then the tapioca flour through the opening in the blender cover; blend until smooth.
- Spray a mini-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray and spoon the batter evenly into the cups.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a couple of minutes before removing from the pan.
- Serve while still warm from the oven.