My first experience of the delightful Brazilian snack pão de queijo–Portuguese for “cheese bread,” though it is also often rendered “Brazilian cheese roll”–came during the years I was working with Maria Baez Kijac on her iconic cookbook, The South American Table. It’s a pretty irresistible treat that has the benefit of being gluten free. Maria’s cookbook includes a recipe for the dish, and she taught me how to make it–but life is pretty crazy, between working for a living and caring for my aging mom, plus other activities, and baking has pretty much slipped out of my life. And with Maria now semi-retired, I didn’t think I’d have the chance to enjoy these chewy, cheesy little balls again any time soon.
Fortunately, this last weekend at the National Restaurant Association Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, while I spent most of my time looking at fabulous kitchen equipment (I was there representing Foodservice Equipment Reports, a magazine for which I write with some regularity), I did visit a few of the booths of food vendors, including that of Forno de Minas, a family-owned Brazilian business that not only produces pão de queijo (from a generations-old family recipe), it sells them frozen in U.S. grocery stores. Having been delighted by the samples they were handing out at the show, as soon as I got home, I looked Forno de Minas up online and found that they sell their frozen pão de queijo in several local grocery stores.
For me, this was a happy discovery. For those who might need to be gluten free, this could be a lifesaver. Instead of wheat flour, pão de queijo is made from yuca (also known as cassava or tapioca). While yuca/tapioca/cassava flour is now available in many stores–and really pretty much anywhere, if you have a computer–if you don’t want to tackle making these from scratch, I can assure you that the pão de queijo from Forno de Minas is the next best thing to homemade–and in most cases, even better than homemade, if your home doesn’t come equipped with a Brazilian baker.
Anyway, I do highly recommend the pão de queijo from Forno de Minas, even if you’re not worried about gluten. Really a dandy, flavorful, and rather comforting taste treat.
And if you want to find out which stores near you might carry it, here’s their website: http://www.fornodeminas.com/