OK, so I’m cheating here: the Brigadeiro, pretty much Brazil’s national sweet, is cooked in a saucepan, not in an oven. But they’re really delicious (batch 2 was demanded immediately), really easy to make and by a long way the most Brazilian thing I could find. So here goes.
Brigadeiros have a relatively short history: they were created in Rio de Janeiro in 1946 and named after a presidential candidate, Eduardo Gomes, who happened to be an army Brigadier. Gomes lost the election, but these gooey chocolate truffles won the hearts of the Brazilian people and have been a favourite ever since.
With the possible exception of some flatbreads in posts to come, I’m unlikely to provide any recipes with a smaller number of ingredients:
- 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (approx 400g)
- 30g cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 30g butter (if it’s unsalted, add a gramme or two of salt)
- Dessicated coconut for rolling
In fact, you can roll your brigadeiros in anything you like: in most recipe photos you’ll see, they’re coated with chocolate sprinkles; some recipes go for chopped pistachios or almonds. I happen to love coconut and think it brings extra Brazil-ness, but the choice really is yours.
The steps in the method are just as simple:
- Put the first three ingredients into a saucepan and mix thoroughly
- Heat, mixing continually, until you have a sticky paste that comes away from the sides of the pan
- Leave to cool until they don’t burn your fingers
- Shape into balls around 3cm in diameter, and roll in your favourite topping
There are, however, some details worth mentioning:
- Cocoa powder clumps. A balloon whisk is a good idea for the first five minutes or so until it’s really smooth, then switch to a wooden spoon. If you don’t have a balloon whisk, go for elbow-grease.
- “Mixing continually” means what it says. Don’t leave the mixture on the heat for more than a few seconds without stirring it to get some off the sides of the pan, especially towards the end.
- Knowing when to take the mixture off the heat is tricky. Too soon and you have a liquid chocolate sauce that you can’t mould. Too late and your brigadeiros are decidedly chewy. My guidelines for the best point: (1) wait until the point where, when you run a wooden spoon through the liquid, it flows back very slowly and reluctantly, then give it another couple of minutes, or (2) when the mixture temperature is just above 100℃. Or just keep practising until you can do it by feel, at risk to your waistline.
- You want to cool the mixture enough so that it doesn’t burn your fingers. If you want the mixture to cool more quickly, dump your saucepan into cold water when you’ve taken it off the heat.
- If you’ve overcooked and then over-cooled the mixture so that it’s too stiff to mould, warm it up slightly – it won’t hurt. But if that’s happened, be kind to your tasters’ teeth and make smaller balls.
Having said which, this is relatively simple stuff. And the results are incredibly moreish…
P.S. For added Brazilian authenticity, pronounce the name with the “Bri” rhyming with “Me”, the “ei” rhyming with “hay” and the “os” rhyming with “louche”. If you can be bothered.
Mid-process shots follow, somewhat more boring than usual…