1. Are you living a gluten-free lifestyle?
2. Do you LOVE cheese and garlic?
If you answered yes to either (or both) of these questions, this is your lucky day. Because I’m going to show you how to make light-as-air, crusty buns, aromatic of Parmesan and garlic.
They’re fast. They’re easy.
And they’re absolutely, positively, 100% gluten-free.
How can this be, you ask? Read on.
Back in December one of the regular readers of this blog, Ricardo Gonzalez, offered this comment:
“Here in Brazil we have a nice and loved bread, all the Brazilians love ’em! I’m talking about Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo) a nice soft delicious balls made of cheese and manioc starch. I promise to send recipe of this delicate bread to you PJ, but i think will not be easy to find manioc starch (we call it here POLVILHO) in USA markets. It’s the same that occur here in Brazil with Maple Syrup, difficult to find here. Anyway, these cheese soft ball breads, are common here freezed and sold in plastic bags. All of Brazilians and tourists who come visit Brazil loves a lot, Pão de Queijo!!! Hope you could visit Brazil and taste one of them in future!”
Since a trip to Brazil isn’t in my near future, I asked Ricardo to send along the recipe. Which he quickly did – thanks again, Ricardo! I love having some vague idea of where I’m headed before taking off on any baking trip, so I Googled up a few pictures of Pão de Queijo.
Ah. I see. Round, puffy, light-gold rolls, looking very much like smooth-skinned cream puffs. (Try searching Google images for Pão de Queijo. You’ll see a wonderful gallery of photos.)
Now I know where I’m going. Come along with me – let’s bake Pão de Queijo – Gluten-Free Brazilian Cheese Buns – together.
Tapioca flour (a.k.a. tapioca starch, cassava flour, manioc flour; all the same thing) is “the tie that binds” here. Extracted from cassava root, this pure starch is gluten-free, and nearly protein-free. We’ve always used it to thicken puddings and pie fillings, but never knew it could make great buns.
One caveat – all tapioca flours are NOT created equal. I learned this when a friend baking gluten-free test-baked this recipe for me.
“They were delicious, everyone devoured them. But the dough wasn’t scoopable; it was more like cake batter,” she said. I know Dani is a good baker, and almost certainly hadn’t measured wrong; so I quizzed her on what brand of tapioca she’d used. “Ener-G,” she said. I tried the recipe with Ener-G; she was right. And I’ll show you the results at the end of this blog.
But for now, let’s get back to the recipe.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. These buns come together quickly, so give yourself enough time for the oven to come up to temperature.
Put 2 cups (8 ounces) tapioca flour in a mixing bowl.
Choose your favorite extra-sharp, extra-hard cheese: Parmesan, Romano, Asiago. Grate 3 ounces – about 2/3 cup. Set it aside for now.
Cut 1/2 cup (4-ounce stick) of butter into pats. Put the butter in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup milk, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Heat till the butter melts, then bring to a boil.
Pour into the bowl of tapioca starch.
Beat the mixture at high speed till it’s cohesive and elastic; this won’t take long, less than 30 seconds.
Beat in the grated cheese, plus 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic.
Whisk together 2 large eggs, and drizzle them into the tapioca mixture, with the mixer running.
You’ll have a viscous, fairly thick batter/dough.
We’ve found that tapioca starch/flour varies in its absorption capabilities. If you’re gotten this far and the batter is thinner, more like cake or pancake batter, beat in additional tapioca flour/starch till it’s thick enough to hold its shape when you scoop some onto a baking sheet. It should be the approximate consistency of cream puff batter: when you plop it onto the pan, it should settle slightly, but not spread into a puddle.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, to gather everything into the center. This makes it easier to scoop.
Scoop out golf ball-sized mounds of batter. A tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.
Them mounds will settle gently.
Bake the buns for 20 minutes. Though I’m baking only one pan of buns here, you’ll be baking two. After 10 minutes, rotate the pans – top to bottom, bottom to top.
COOL! The buns are puffing nicely. Who knew tapioca could be so cooperative?
Bake till the buns have barely browned.
Remove them from the oven. They’ll have an interesting “crackly” appearance.
Now for the good part. Grab a hot bun, and take a bite. No butter necessary – these are complete unto themselves.
Ahhhh…. SO good.
Offer them to your family, friends, or whoever happens to be with you in the kitchen.
“Ahhhh…” I promise you universal acclaim for these little gems.
Share the recipe with your gluten-free-diet friends.
They’ll weep with joy. Promise.
Wrap leftovers in plastic. Store at room temperature. Rewarm briefly in the microwave.
So, here’s that tapioca test I mentioned earlier. These are the two brands of tapioca I could find at our local supermarket. The organic tapioca starch in front weighs less per cup than the tapioca starch/flour we sell here – 3 5/8 ounces vs. 4 ounces. Nevertheless, it made a stiff-enough batter, and acceptable buns. Not AS high-rising, but OK.
But the Ener-G tapioca flour, which weighs 3 7/8 ounces per cup, made a very soft batter, just as Dani said. I had to add an additional 1/2 cup to make it stiff enough to scoop.
And the Ener-G buns did a weird concave thing. Ener-G bun on the left, compared to organic on the right.
So, caveat emptor, I guess. Depending on the tapioca you use, you’ll possibly have to adjust the amount to get a workable batter; and you may get different results with the buns.
One of our readers, Mary, was asking if you can make these buns using a food processor, rather than a mixer. Good question, Mary. I tried it – it worked!
The batter was looser (more liquid) when I made it in the food processor. So I scooped it into a greased mini-muffin pan.
The pan has 20 wells; I filled them right to the top, as you can see.
Baked them for 25 minutes in a 375°F oven. WOW, look at that POP!
Oh yes… Wonderful, airy little cheese puffs.
These were a TINY bit doughier than the original; I might bake 30 minutes, instead of 25. But eminently palatable, for sure.
Mary, thanks for inspiring this successful experiment.
Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Gluten-Free Brazilian Cheese Buns.