Pão de Queijo

When I say it, it sounds like she’s from south of Indianapolis. “Oh, your mom is from Brazil … Indiana?” But when she says it, there’s no question she’s from south of the equator. Folks generally pick up on my mom’s accent, but to me her voice isn’t foreign. It’s just the voice of my mother. She must have experienced the same with her own mother: a Connecticut Yankee who raised five kids in the boondocks of southern Brazil and learned to speak Portuguese through her New England accent. A new language wasn’t the only thing Grandma had to learn in her new home. Even the kitchen was new territory. She taught herself to bake in a wood-fired oven, brewed her own beer and let the milkman have it when she caught him diluting her share with water from the garden spigot. When her children were grown, grandma moved back to the U.S. She packed up her kitchen along with a new repertoire of Brazilian recipes: feijoada, baño maría, brigadeiros, pão de queijo and more. Dishes like these have become staples at family reunions and dominate long-distance conversations between vis-its. Mom and her siblings keep the recipes alive by sharing tips on sourcing ingredients and adapting Grandma’s techniques to modern kitchens. A wild mix of Portuguese and English may waft from the kitchen, but when we sit down to the table together, it simply translates as delicious. These Brazilian cheesy bread rolls have a crunchy outside and a chewy middle. They should be served hot and are best right out of the oven. ~ Corrie Quinn, Smoking Goose and Goose the Market
By / Photography By Corrie Quinn | January 06, 2017


Mix the cassava flour, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl. Heat the milk, water and butter or oil until the milk just begins to boil. Stir the hot liquid into the flour mixture with a spoon or with the dough hook of an electric mixer. Keep stirring until all the flour is incorporated and the mixture is warm but not hot. Touch the dough with the back of your fingers—they should feel comfortably warm against the dough.

Beat the egg in a separate bowl then mix it into the dough. Keep blending until the dough is elastic and smooth, then fold in the shredded cheese. Cover the dough and chill—it should be colder than room temp before baking but can rest in the fridge up to 24 hours. Heat the oven to 375°F . Drop spoonfuls of dough about as big as a golf ball onto a lightly greased cookie sheet or spoon the dough into muffin tins, traditional size or mini. Bake until the tops are golden and a roll sounds hollow when you tap the bottom, about 20 minutes depending on size. Serve immediately. Baked rolls will hold up to a day, but reheat in the toaster oven before serving.


  • 1½ cups sour cassava flour (look for packages marked “tapioca flour,” easily found at Saraga in Indianapolis and in most Asian groceries)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ⅓ cup either unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup finely shredded sharp, dry cheese—in the Midwest, try one of these regional brands: Jacobs & Brichford Everton Premium Reserve, Kenny’s Farmhouse Dry Fork Reserve or Swiss Connection’s Pazia
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