A February Coffee Break, Brazilian Style

Cheese buns by Luciana.

I met the lovely Luciana, originally from Brazil, when be both attended the Kelley bread-making session in January. She said she wanted me to try a traditional Brazilian food from her native country — Pao De Queijo or “cheese buns” as Luciana calls them. When I got her invitation to come for coffee and cheese buns, I accepted with pleasure and anticipation.

I left my office that morning about 10:30 saying I was going for Brazilian cheese buns and would be back later. Coffee-break envy came over the faces of my co-workers. When I arrived at Luciana’s she greeted me at the door saying with only a slight panic in her voice, “We have no water.” However, she was unflappable with her hospitality and invited me to see cheese buns waiting patiently in the pan to go into the oven.

A Tap at the Door

Alicia from Buenos Aries, Argentina, and Luciana’s friend, came bearing a freshly-made cheesecake from Whole Foods topped with strawberries and kiwi. We sat at the lovely table prepared by Luciana to enjoy hot Brazilian coffee (strong and good) and the much-anticipated cheese buns.

“Try the cheese buns first with nothing on them,” suggested Luciana. I bit into the slightly crunchy outside and a soft and chewy inside. The warm, pleasantly-doughy, spongy-light bun, punctuated with a hint of cheese, was delicious! Luciana said she used cream cheese to make the dough soft and moist and parmesan cheese for the flavor. She said you can also use cheddar cheese or a personal favorite of hers, feta cheese.

Luciana had considered making and selling these locally, but when she calculated the cost, there would be little profit, if any, due to the cost of the tapioca starch flour. The cheese buns are made with Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour, and due to their very nature, are gluten-free. The flour can be purchased at Whole Foods, some grocery stores, health food stores, or online. The flour is not expensive if you are making these for yourself, but if you were to make them in volume, it would be. Alicia’s cheese cake with fresh fruit was a perfect sweet treat for a cold day.

A Blast from the Past

The coffee break at Luciana’s brought back fond memories of my trip to Brazil in 1995. As was the custom, my hosts in Brazil served coffee and something sweet usually in the evening as lunch was the main meal of the day. Funny how I have no memory of these cheese buns. We must have had them! South American hospitality was one of my cherished memories from my visit.The coffee break with Luciana and Alicia reminded me of the good times I had in Brazil.

Not for the Faint of Heart

Luciana, mother of a 5-year-old boy (Astor), and Alicia, mother of two girls, ages 8 and 10 (Karla and Greta), had plenty to say. Alicia, whose husband is here on an assignment, welcomed the chance to practice her English.

Our conversation was not for the faint of heart. We delved deeply into U.S. politics, religion, and about raising children. These young, brilliant and beautiful women hold firm to family values. They are both stay-at-home moms who often feel the pressure to work outside the home — not from their husbands but from society that suggests women have to do it all. Luciana says sometimes she feels “guilty” that she isn’t doing something else besides raising their son.

“What could be more important than your work as a mother,” I asked? Of course, often woman have to work outside the home for economic reasons, we weren’t talking about that. I shared my experience in that I was able to work from home for seven years when my son was born, going into the office as needed for meetings. Now, I am back in the office full time with flexibility to pick up my son from school and continue my work at home. I am lucky — my job as an editor lends itself to working from home and my employer was amenable, in fact, it was my boss’ idea when I became pregnant with our son. We talked about how more employers are making room for smart women (and men) who need flexibility for their children. Everyone wins.

Luciana and Alicia

Alicia drove the point home when she asked, “If we leave our children for others to raise, what will the next generation look like?”

I have to say, and I think Luciana and  Alicia would agree, the greatest work we do is raising our children. I left uplifted and inspired (not to mention nourished) on my walk back to the office. And to think it all happened because of cheese buns!

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Buns)

  • 2-1/2 cups cassava/tapioca flour
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese – enough to give the desired texture

In a saucepan boil the milk, oil and salt together. Pour the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the boiled liquids and mix well until you have homogeneous dough. Let it cool down for about 20minutes.

Add the eggs and cheese and mix very well. Knead it to make it smooth.

Make little two-inch balls and bake them on a baking sheet at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Eat while hot.


6 thoughts on “A February Coffee Break, Brazilian Style

  1. Away back in the pioneer days of our country—back in the1930s anyway—homes in rural Alabama boasted screened cabinets that held cakes and pies and any food left over from breakfast and earlier meals. they were called “pie safes,” but were usually referred to simple as the “safe.” Refrigeration came later—much later—but there was always food in the safe, and we kids made multiple trips to it during the day. There were always left-over biscuits, sometimes fried eggs, bacon or sausage.

    I usually went for a biscuit, sticking one dingy finger in and carving out a pouch in the biscuit by compressing the soft insides, then filling the pocket with syrup or molasses or sugar. We filled the pocket inside, but we went out in the yard to enjoy it because sometimes the sides opened up and some of the sweetness inside abruptly came outside. Ah, those were the good ol’ days!

    As an aside, many years ago I heard Alabama Governor George Wallace speechifying from the Capitol steps in Montgomery, pleading for a second term, and he told the crowd what a great feeling it was when, as a kid, he would take a hot biscuit fresh from the oven, stick his finger into it and make a pocket, then fill the pocket with syrup. I am here to testify that nobody, not even George Wallace, will do that more than once—one time, perhaps, but never again—it’s hot!

    A great post, nicely paragraphed and presented, and a trio of lovely women to prepare and share good food and memories. I was smitten with the image of Luciana, and at first I didn’t realize that Alicia and the fruit and the buns were also in the photo. To be really truthful, I was smitten with the buns and both ladies, but not so much for the fruit.

  2. In the story it was mentioned that she uses cream cheese in the dough but it’s not in the recipe. Any way to know when & how much of it to add??!!

    • Hi Stephanie: yes, she told me she added the cream cheese so they would not be dry. But then when she gave me the recipe it did not have cream cheese. However, I tested her recipe before I posted it for that very reason and it was just as good as the ones Luciana made. Perhaps I can get Luciana to comment on this. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

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