Camila Coelho’s healthy take on pão de queijo, Brazilian’s national staple.
If you've ever set foot in Brazil - or met a Brazilian - you’ve most certainly tasted “pão de queijo”, the local staple that is as compulsory as the country’s famous “cafezinho”. For breakfast, as an afternoon snack, home or at the office, and even in the evening pairing with a fresh caipirinha, those small gooey cheesy balls - pão de queijo translates literally as “cheese bread” - are part of Camila Coelho’s memories as a kid. “It was almost like milk to me, I grew up on pão de queijo", she recalls.
Growing up in Minas Gerais, region known for its home-made cuisine and for being the birthplace of pão de queijo, Camila’s home kitchen home was daily taken by fresh pão queijo aroma, just out of the oven. "It was always present in the best family moments", she adds. The habit has stuck: her day doesn’t really start until she has had her coffee with pão de quejo. "When I have American friends over, I make sure to bake a batch. I really want it to be known everywhere, that's why I refuse to call them ‘cheese breads’. I prefer pão de queijo!".
Her original recipe comes from her brother. “But I recently tried a new healthy version that tastes really good”. In this recipe, the polvilho flour (made from manioc, it can be found in Brazilian groceries or easily online) is paired with chickpea flour, rich in protein and fibers, which contributes to satiety, explains Brazilian nutritionist physician Fernanda Simões. “Cottage cheese is also an excellent source of protein and is packed with many nutrients, such as B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium”, she adds. Finally, the chia seeds ensure a boost of antioxidants, fibers, omega 3, vitamins and minerals.
1 tea cup of polvilho azedo (make sure you get the “azedo” version)
1 tea cup of cooked and smashed sweet potato
1/2 tea cup of chickpea flour
1/2 tea cup of cottage cheese
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of chia
1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
A pinch of Himalayan salt
In a large bowl, whisk together sweet potato, eggs, cheese, olive oil, chia and salt. Add slowly the polvilho and the chickpea flour while kneading the dough with your hands - you’ll know it’s done when it stops sticking to your fingers. Make small balls with the paste, place them in a baking tray then set in the fridge to sit for one hour. Pre-heat the oven at 200ºC/400ºF and leave them for 30 minutes.