Pão de queijo origin - (Cheese rolls)
Pão de Queijo means in Portuguese Bread of cheese.
However in first days of Pao de Queijo had no cheese in it.
Everything started back in the years 1600’s when the slaves of our Minas Gerais state were making Tapioc Flour to the rich farmland owners. That was pretty much the time Feijoada was invented as well.
But going back to the Pão de Queijo history, the slaves used to crop manioc (yucca root), peel them off, finely grate them, and soak them in a big wood bowl (gamela) with plenty of water. So they wash and drained this grated manioc, then spread this manioc on a tiled floor outdoors and let it dry under the sun.
When dried, they scraped this manioc into big bags and stored them for food consumption throughout the year.
This was a noble food prepared to the farmland owners. Therefore slaves were not supposed to eat them. Even today this manioc flour is largely used in Brazilian cuisine, and also it is used to prepare the Farofa (a seasoned manioc flour).
OK. But our hard working slaves end it up with a fine white powder left in the big wood bowls after taking out the manic flour. This was the tapioc starch that dried out in the “gamelas” after preparing the manioc flour. The manioc(Tapioca) flour had the starch washed out that’s why the sandy appearance.
So the slaves managed to scrape this white starch off the gamelas, make small balls and bake them. This manioc starch balls had neither cheese nor milk in it, just plain manioc starch. These baked balls became popular among the slaves and rich people just discarded this type of food.
More than 200 years latter, cattle farms became widespread in Brazil and slaves (that were being freed by that time) gained access to better foods such as milk and cheese. So they began to increment the baked balls with milk and ultimately cheese!
When Brazil had no more slaves, their culture began to spread among the rest of the population. And Pão de Queijo became popular in Minas Gerais..
The manioc starch latter got the name of “Polvilho” and now we have two types of “Polvilho”. Sweet polvilho and
The second type is the Sour Polvilho. This one is made by letting the germs in the wood bowl to ferment the milky liquid before putting it to dry.
The sour polvilho makes a Pao de Queijo a little more acid and bigger.
During the slavery times in Brazil, the Africans incorporated old traditions they brought from Africa with the culture they developed in the new country Brazil.
Their culture blended in our Brazilian culture and we are very proud of it.