Restaurant: Fogo de Chão
City: San Jose, CA

Last night, I went to a Brazilian steakhouse (churrascaria) with several college friends. It’s very pricey ($50+ per person; $30 for salad bar only) but totally worth going at least once in your lifetime for the experience!

We were served warm cheese bread as one of our side dishes. The bread is very light and airy, with a very strong cheesy taste!

pao de queijo

Below is some info about the cheese bread, from Wikipedia:

Cheese buns, cheese breads, pão de queijo or chipá are a variety of small, baked, cheese-flavored rolls, a popular snack and breakfast food in Brazil (especially in the state of Minas Gerais). It is speculated that the recipe has existed since the eighteenth century in Minas Gerais (Brazil), but it became popular throughout the country after the 1950s. It is also widely eaten in northern Argentina. In countries where the snack is popular, it is inexpensive and often sold from streetside stands by vendors carrying a heat-preserving container. In Brazil, it is very commonly found in groceries, supermarkets and bakeries, industrialized and/or freshly made.

Pão de queijo are formed into small balls, around 3-5 centimeters in diameter. The cassava root produces a very powerful starch which is key to the size and texture of the pão de queijo; unlike other types of bread, the recipe calls for no leavening of any kind. Small pockets of air within the dough expand during baking and are contained by the powerful elasticity of the starch paste.

One can knead pão de queijo in a mixer with a hook attachment or do it manually by hand. Once the mixture reaches a doughy consistency, it’s vital to roll it into a ball and either bake immediately or freeze it for later use. If left to rest, the dough will virtually liquify. Regardless of whether the bread is made from freshly made dough, or with frozen dough prepared at a prior cooking session, the final pão de queijo will be the same size and texture.

In Brazil, pão de queijo is a popular breakfast dish and snack. Made of cassava starch, a large number of consumers prefer to buy the mix and bake the bread at home, rather than buying it ready-made; however, pão de queijo continues to be widely sold at snack bars and bakeries. Pão de queijo can also be bought frozen at supermarkets for baking, with brands such as Forno de Minas, Casa do Pão de Queijo and many others featuring as producers. In Brazil, cheese puff mix packages are easily found in most supermarkets, with brands such as Yoki and Hikari dominating the market. A continuing growth exists for pre-prepared products, with brand availability depending on the particular supermarket.

Below is some more info, from Rio’s Brazilian:

For over 200 years, pão de queijo has been a treat for “Mineiros,” people from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. The state of Minas Gerais has long been compared to the American West. To give the cowboys energy on their long outings, ranchhands made a simple roll from the manioc root. Over the years, “queijo minas” was added, giving it it’s distintive cheesy flavor.

Not until the 1950s did pão de queijo catch on with the rest of Brazil. As its popularity spread, variations arose in the bread’s preparation and type of cheese used. Many other Latin American countries have a similar bread, often called “pan de queso,” including Argentina, Columbia, and Paraguay.

Throughout Brazil today you can find pão de queijo in almost every luncheonette and restaurant. Eaten for breakfast, as a snack, or with dinner, Brazilian cheese bread has become a staple of Brazilian cuisine. Brazil now exports pão de queijo throughout the world.