Brigadeiros are perhaps the most famous Brazilian dessert. There is nothing like them anywhere else. The tasty treat is a cross between caramel, toffee and chocolate truffles. Pronounced bree-gah-day-ro, the traditional dessert is nothing more than cooked condensed milk with chocolate and a touch of butter. The simple ingredients and easy preparation make for a spectacular treat that won’t fail to surprise anyone who tastes it. Decadent and chewy, brigadeiros are enjoyed all over the country. The dessert is commonly served at celebrations, especially at birthday parties. It has sentimental value for most Brazilians as it often represents a bond with family and friends. Making up a big part of the Brazilian culture, brigadeiro is love translated into a dessert.
Brigadeiros have a rich place in the history of Brazil. In 1945, electoral campaigns were happening in Brazil. One of the candidates was a man named Eduardo Gomes, a Brazilian Air Force brigadier general (brigadeiro). To promote his campaign, his employees were tasked with creating a new sweet and distributing it to the Brazilian people. Because of milk and sugar shortages in the wake of World War II, Gomez and his associates were forced to use condensed milk. The new chocolate truffle was a success, and even though Eduardo Gomes didn’t win the election, his treat will forever be remembered as “brigadeiro.”
There are many variations of the Brazilian national sweet, including hazelnut, pistachio, white chocolate and dulce de leche.
Here is how to make the classic chocolate version:
- One can (395g) of sweetened condensed milk
- Three tablespoons of cocoa powder (more intense cocoa powders are recommended to avoid over sweetened brigadeiros)
- One tablespoon of unsalted butter
- Chocolate sprinkles (even though the traditional brigadeiro is covered with chocolate sprinkles, it can be rolled in almost anything, such as crushed nuts or cookies)
- Pour the three ingredients in a medium-sized pan, and slowly mix it to homogenize them
- Take the pan to low-medium heat and stir it nonstop until the brigadeiro consistency is reached; that is, until the point where it is possible to see the bottom of the pan when the mixing utensil is straightly passed through it. This should take around 10 to 15 minutes, and it is extremely important to be patient, keeping the heat low and never stopping stirring. When the brigadeiro reaches its ideal cooking point, remove it from the heat and spread it on a plate; as soon as it reaches room temperature, put it in the fridge to cool
- After the brigadeiro has cooled in the fridge, spread a small quantity of butter in your hands- this will prevent the sweet from sticking to you when you begin the rolling process
- Using a spoon, take a bit of the brigadeiro (around 20g) and roll it into a ball using your hands
- Roll the shaped brigadeiros through a bowl with chocolate sprinkles, covering them thoroughly
- Traditionally, brigadeiros are placed in a specific paper brigadeiro cup/case, which can be found online and at Brazilian markets. However, they can also be served without it.
Keep the brigadeiros in the fridge and enjoy! Brigadeiros are perfect examples of the Brazilian reality: explosions of richness, delight and culture.
By Dora Hauache ’20