Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo)
Why This Recipe Works
by Sasha Marx
We have to admit that gluten-free baked goods rarely blow our hair back. It’s just difficult to achieve the satisfying chew of wheat-based baked goods without the help of gluten. But tapioca starch’s unique qualities make it one of the best substitutes out there. Tapioca starch is low in amylose—one of the types of polysaccharides that makes up starch—and therefore forms a high viscosity paste that can trap air. Pão de queijo are traditional Brazilian rolls made using a classic French pâte à choux dough. Pâte à choux is a dough base used for both sweet (éclairs, profiteroles) and savory (Parisian gnocchi, gougères) items. Comprised of butter, water, flour, and eggs, choux pastry relies on steam rather than chemical leavening agents to create rise.
Many of the recipes we tried baked up with a too-gooey interior. So we played with the hydration level until we nailed our favorite version. At 91 percent hydration (most recipes have hydration levels well over 100 percent, which makes them more of a batter than a dough) our rolls baked up crackly on the outsides, bready just under the crusts, and gooey at the very centers. In Brazil these cheese puffs are served as a morning snack with coffee, but we have spent a lot of time dreaming up different applications—dunked in tomato sauce, stuffed with ham for breakfast, or slit open for a quick sandwich.