Would you believe that the most popular street snack in Brazil was cobbled together as a result of a trade embargo? It’s true. Pão de queijo, a gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread, was the product of necessity. However, since then in Brazil, it has become as common as a PB&J in an American elementary school.
One man is betting that it will become common and celebrated at Lua Brazil, the only place you can find Brazilian cheese bread here in Austin. With a State-side twist in using different types of cheese, founder Christiano Prado is working to bring his favorites from home here.
The History of Cheese Bread
“About 200 years ago, Europe stopped sending flour to Brazil because they wanted to be independent. So they did an embargo. So they started to make bread with what they had, which was tapioca. So they mixed it with milk, eggs, and cheese too,” explains Christiano Prado, the founder of Lua Brazil, the only place in Austin where you can purchase the famed pão de queijo or Brazilian cheese bread.
Although his recipe is based of centuries of tradition, it has also evolved to suite the availability of ingredients within Texas.
Much in the same way the cooks of the 19th century made the best of what they had, Prado tries to use the ingredients to which he has access.
For him, this includes changing cheeses.
Instead of filling his cheese bread with the customary Minasgerais cheese, he opts instead for a more familiar taste: Parmesan. Partially, this is due to the inaccessibility of the traditional cheese. However, Prado says, “I think there’s more flavor. It’s even better I think.”
Despite his enthusiasm for a new approach to pão de queijo, he says, “ That’s something that we created here [in Austin]. In Brazil, you’re not going to find different flavors of cheese bread.”
An Austin Pão de Queijo
There is no denying that this man is a cheese whiz. In just over a year, Prado has gone from bringing cheese bread to parties to developing his fifth flavor and newest release, “Great Balls of Fire.”He claims that it all happened by accident.
A realtor by trade, Prado recounts that one day he just realized that, “I couldn’t find a good cheese bread in town. The ones that they had frozen are not that great, they barely had any cheese. And I said, ‘You know what? We need to have a decent cheese bread in Austin.’” After his epiphany, things just took off.
Today he has a customer base that consumes everything that he can produce.
Loaded with cheese, these bite sized, gluten-free sponges sell out as soon as he arrives at his weekend markets. At this point, people are practically begging him to bake more.
And Prado makes sure that they do. “I want to make cheese bread and I want to provide an experience to everybody.”
Although it’s hard to imagine people turning down these edible clouds of cheese, Prado admits that he understands that “there’s some people that don’t like it.”
He does, however, consider not liking cheese bread as the equivalent of denying yourself chocolate. “There’s some people who don’t like chocolate. Not everybody likes cheese [either], but you know what? I’m fine with that. But people who like it really like it.”
Find Lua Brazil on 2600 E Cesar Chavez St in Austin, and get ready for a delicious experience.