Gluten-free Brazilian Cheese Bread You’ll Want To Nosh On
Grab Brazilian cheese rolls from Nosh, one of the vendors at the Best of Honolulu Festival this Saturday at the Honolulu Hale Civic Grounds.
In Brazil, pão de queijo is simply a baked cheese roll, and it’s a staple of the everyday diet. It’s the speciality Nosh is serving at farmers markets on O‘ahu.
Photo: James Charisma
For Brazilians, this little pastry is known as pão de queijo. Foodies or language buffs will know that’s pronounced “pown-deh-kay-zho.” The rest of us can say cheese bread.
The most important part, though—regardless of what you call it or where you’re from—is that it tastes really good.
In Brazil, pão de queijo is a baked cheese roll, and an everyday staple. The recipe is simple: water, milk, Parmesan cheese and tapioca flour. You might enjoy one with jam and coffee for breakfast, or as a midday snack while on the go, or served alongside soup or salad in restaurants. Families purchase pão de queijo frozen in bulk from the supermarket or by the bag-full fresh from the bakery on the way home after work. It’s as common a food item as milk is in America—or rice in Hawai‘i. Plus, it’s gluten-free.
We’re a long way from South America, but luckily we’ve got Nosh (which means to snack enthusiastically). This little company is just over a year old, but is already taking off at farmers markets and outdoor events with its new take on cheese bread.
“I think pão de queijo has been so popular here because it’s very relatable,” says Nosh co-owner Stacey Schiller. “Everybody loves cheese and bread and it’s crisp on the outside, but because of the tapioca, it has a consistency like mochi on the inside; fluffy and gooey.”
Schiller and her business partner Alessandra Klein prepared a basket of the little cheesy breads and brought them to a farmers market in early 2015. Klein, originally from Brazil, grew up eating pão de queijo and thought the little rolls would be perfect for events because of their small size—people could try one without having to commit to a big order. The farmers market operators loved it, and asked how soon Schiller and Klein could start. Today, Nosh is available at the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau’s Blaisdell, Kailua, KCC and Mililani farmers markets, and it's a regular fixture at Eat The Street and Honolulu Night Market. At big block parties, Nosh can sell more than 1,500 rolls in just a few hours.
“Follow the smell,” Schiller says, with a laugh. “We have anywhere from one to five ovens working at any given event and the smell of the rolls baking and the cheese literally travels for blocks. At big outdoor events, people show up at our booth because they smelt something amazing and followed their nose to us.”
A single roll costs $2, $2.50 with fillings. You can also buy a frozen bag of six for $10 to take home and cook in the oven later. The ones sold at market come in a variety of sweet and savory fillings, including spicy cheddar, roasted garlic and herb, creamy tapenade made with kalamata olives, jalapeno poppers with roasted and de-seeded jalapenos and cream cheese, guava, nutella and dulce de leche, a South American caramel.
“Dulce de leche is the most traditional filling to be served with pão de queijo," Schiller says. "People often ask, cheese and caramel, really? But it’s an incredible combination."
She’s right. On its own, the caramel is heavy and super sweet, but, with the bread, the taste melds with the Parmesan to create a flavor reminiscent of eating warm gooey brie on soft rolls. It’s still sweet (and savory) and delicious. Good as it is on its own, pão de queijo springs to life when combined with a surprising number of other foods.
Nosh offers a variety of slider sandwiches using pão de queijo as bread, including a caprese with fresh tomato, basil and a balsamic reduction; pork sliders with shredded pork and a guava chipotle glaze; and ham and cheese, which is a hit with kids. At morning events, breakfast sandwiches are available too, with options including egg and bacon; egg and ham; ‘The Works,’ featuring egg, bacon, ham, and tomato; ‘The Mexican,’ featuring egg, fresh salsa, and a little jalapeno; and others. Occasionally, Klein also prepares tomato and other soups for dipping purposes. The sandwiches range from between $3 to $7 and the soups $8 to $11.
“Eventually, we’d like to get into more wholesale at supermarkets and in restaurants, so more people have access to pão de queijo, but we love being at the events. We get to see thousands of people come and smell the bread, watch us bake, and learn about this previously unfamiliar bread,” Schiller says. “It’s so accessible; there’s diversity in how to serve it, it can be sweet, savory, firm on the outside and gooey on the inside.”
Try Nosh this weekend at the Best of Honolulu Festival on Saturday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on the grounds of Honolulu Hale. Enjoy a variety of food by vendors including Blue Tree Cafe, Cafe Kaila, Da Hawaiian Poke Company, Greens & Vines, Maui Brewing Company, Wow Wow Lemonade, and more. Plus there'll be live entertainment, a pop-up marketplace and fun for all ages.