Product Review: Pao Bread

Pao Bread is a Brazilian cheese bread snack that is commonly sold by street vendors. Now, thanks to Portland entrepreneur Jewelie Schultz, you can get some gluten free and much closer to home. Pao bread, known as pao de queijo in Brazil, is normally made with tapioca starch, cheese, and eggs, so Schultz didn’t have to modify the recipe to make it gluten-free. She did have to discover the right kind of cheese combination to get an authentic flavor. The product is manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility here in Portland.

The bread comes pre-measured into balls, frozen, and ready to bake. They take about twenty minutes to bake and are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. We got our hands on some samples courtesy of the baker herself (see our disclosure policy) and tried them out. We also gave some to a few of our friends and taste-testers. Here’s what it looks like fresh out of the oven.

After a bite…

What these totally remind me of is a snack I used to make for myself when I would get home from high school. My friends and I would get home, go to the kitchen, wrap some cheddar cheese in a wheat tortilla, and microwave it. If you microwaved it correctly, the cheese would bubble and the tortilla would be delicious. They also taste kind of like goldfish crackers, but are much more of a texture sensation. Everybody we had try them, including ourselves, thought they were good. Schultz lived in Brazil as an exchange student, and did her best to come up with a recipe that tasted authentic.

Here’s a list of the ingredients: tapioca starch, eggs, safflower oil, cheddar cheese (cultured milk, salt, enzymes, annatto (color)), Parmesan cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), milk, water, kosher salt. The ingredient list is pretty short, and there isn’t any leavener. I was going to say that they’re pretty allergen-free until I noticed that they’ve got egg and dairy. On the minus side, the number one ingredient is tapioca starch, which we’ve discussed before, and has almost no nutritional value. Thanks to the eggs and the cheese, though, this probably isn’t as bad as a lot of the gluten-free breads out there. And hey! – We’re talking about a snack here, anyway.

And as a snack, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with something like this. They’re quick, easy to make, and kind of fun. They’re locally made, which is cool. I always like supporting local small businesses. Paobread is available at the Portland and Lake Oswego Lamb’s Markets, the Eastmoreland Market, and the Alberta Co-Op, among other places. You can also get them at the Moreland and Montavilla Farmers Markets. See their website for more details on where to buy. Here’s their website for more information.

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