Fun fact about me: I love Brazi Bites. I buy them in bulk when they are available at Costco, usually multiple times when they are in stock. I’m sad when they are gone, I rejoice when they are back. I eat them for breakfast, or for a nice afternoon snack. I would say I usually eat these about 2-3 times per week when I have them on hand. They are gooey, cheesy, little buns that pair perfectly with fruit and a coffee, and satisfy my cheese and bread cravings in one little package.
I first tried these at my previous job, where I ran the Test Kitchen at the Sam’s Club Corporate Office. The owner of the company came in to prep them for meetings and tastings, and I literally could not get enough of them (also, he was a super nice guy who’s business was just starting to take off, so I’m happy to support them and watch them succeed!). For whatever reason, Sam’s Club didn’t take them as an item that year, but I had been keeping my eye out for them since. After moving on from that job and finding them in my local Costco, I was back to being totally hooked.
So, what is a Brazi Bite? For those of you who are un-initiated with this delightful product, Brazi Bites are more traditionally referred to as Pão de Queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread made of fermented tapioca starch, milk, eggs, and cheese. Historically, these were produced by slaves working in yucca farms, as they would bake rolls out of the remaining tapioca starch left in bowls after processing the yucca. As the tradition of dairy evolved, milk and cheese were added to the recipe, which evolved even further into the popular cheese bread that is a staple in Brazil today (summarized from the Brazi Bites website). The mission of the Brazi Bites company was to share this Brazilian delicacy with North America, which is how I was introduced to this delightful food about 3 years ago. Ever since, these have become a staple of my diet because I love them so much!
As I mentioned before, these go through phases at Costco – sometimes they have them, sometimes they don’t. Currently, we’re in an off period (☹), which normally I would be sad about until they bring them back a months later. But, since this is covid-quarantine times, I have plenty of time for food projects. Making my own Brazi Bites certainly fit the bill for this weekend’s plans.
I followed the recipe posted by Serious Eats, because I’ve been eying it for a while (basically every time Costco stops selling Brazi Bites and I consider making them from scratch). The actual recipe itself is super straightforward and easy to follow, however you do have to special-order the fermented tapioca starch on Amazon (the link is in the recipe), and it did take about 3 weeks to get to me. Once that arrived, I rejoiced and assembled my eggs, milk, melted butter, two cheeses (parm and cheddar), salt and baking powder, and got to work! Essentially, all you need to do is add all of the ingredients except the cheeses and mix together until it forms a very interesting slurry. Then add the cheese and knead it all together, hydrate for 24 hours, and form into balls the next day. These can be baked immediately or frozen for later use, just like the Brazi Bites that you would buy in the store!
I’m pleased to say my freezer is full of these little delights again (for now), although my stock is already running dangerously low (I may have a problem). They baked up and tasted exactly like Brazi Bites, which was very exciting and made the wait for the special fermented tapioca flour worth it. This is definitely a fun food project that I would totally recommend, especially if you are a Brazi Bite addict like me! Who knows, I may even bulk-order some more of the tapioca starch so I can whip up a batch at a moment’s notice!
Make Them: Pão de Queijo Recipe on Serious Eats