Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread) is a beloved snack and breakfast food in Brazil, but it's gained a lot of popularity outside of Brazil as well! Making these gluten-free puffs from scratch is surprisingly easy, and only requires a handful of ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine water, milk, oil, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, put the tapioca starch in a medium bowl.
When the milk mixture comes to a boil, pour it over the starch and beat it vigorously with a wooden spoon until you have a cohesive, thick gelatinous paste. Let it cool completely, about 15 to 20 minutes.
While the tapioca mixture is cooling, grate the cheese and whisk it together with the eggs in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
When cool, transfer the tapioca mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the cheese/egg mixture and beat on medium speed for about 90 seconds until the mixture is fairly smooth. It will be very sticky and stretchy.
Use a spoon or a small cookie/ice cream scoop (I use a 1 ½ tablespoon sized scoop) to portion the batter onto 2 parchment lined-sheet pans. You may want to lightly spray the scoop with oil or periodically dip the scoop in a cup of warm water to keep the dough from sticking to it (both methods work but I tend to prefer the oil method a bit more).
If needed, lightly wet your fingers and just fix any bits of dough that may be sticking out or don't look very smooth on your scoops. It will help them bake more evenly.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom partway through baking (alternatively you can bake 1 sheet pan at a time in the center of the oven). The cheese breads should be light golden and puffed into balls. Eat warm.
The traditional cheese for pão de queijo is called minas, but it can be difficult to find in the United States. For the finely grated cheese in this recipe, I recommend a combination of finely grated mozzarella (2 ounces/55 grams/¾ cup) and finely grated pecorino Romano (1 ounce/30 grams/¼ cup), which adds just a bit of additional flavor and sharpness without coming on too strong. Use a low-moisture mozzarella (the kind you would grate on pizza).
Note that some of these cheeses are typically made with animal rennet which means they aren't vegetarian. If you're vegetarian, use vegetarian style cheeses instead.
To freeze Brazilian cheese bread, scoop the dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan (or smaller trays that will fit in the freezer) as directed and then freeze until the dough is solid. Transfer frozen dough to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months. You can bake them from a frozen state but they may require an extra 5 minutes give or take.
Baking time can vary based on your oven and your preference. I have an electric oven so it sometimes takes longer than a gas oven might. Although some people prefer their pão de queijo to be more pale, I like them a bit more browned because I like the textural contrast in the slightly drier and crispier crust and the tender and chewy interior. The ones in the photos baked for 33 minutes one pan at a time in an electric oven.
Although you can bake two pans of pão de queijo at once in the top and lower thirds of the oven, rotating the pans partway through baking, if you have the time to spare you can bake each pan on its own in the center of the oven. I find that they tend to bake a bit more evenly this way.