How To Make Brigadeiros
What is a brigadeiro?
Brigadeiros are the national candy of Brazil, named after a famous Brigadier General turned presidential candidate in the 1940s called Eduardo Gomes. The story goes that his wife prepared them for his fundraising events and they became an overnight sensation.
Brazil is a country of many socio-economic layers, and because of the simplicity of this treat, brigadeiros are accessible to any budget. If you want to keep them authentic, stick with the simplest ingredients. Although many are going gourmet by substituting fancier chocolates and adding expensive nuts, the basic version of this recipe is in fact the true experience.
Brigadeiros are often compared to truffles. Personally, I believe they are more reminiscent of fudge. But even better because of the unexpected and somewhat unusual combination of chocolate and caramel that melts in your mouth.
Growing up, brigadeiros were nothing really that special. They were a staple at every single children's birthday party. In that sense, they are the equivalent of the American rice crispy treats, brownies or chocolate chip cookies.
But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and now my sisters and I will fight over who gets to have the last one.
- 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup chocolate Nesquick
- 2 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- chocolate sprinkles
Is it a Sprinkle or is it a Jimmie?
Are you someone who likes to say chocolate sprinkles or jimmies? Or maybe even hundreds and thousands?
By and large, these tiny sugar candies are one and the same, regardless what you call them. The difference really lies in where you come from. Jimmies (just like cake cones and skim milk) come from the east coast while chocolate sprinkles (wafer cones and fat free milk) are home to the west coast.
However, as the unofficial authority on the topic, my husband claims that there is a difference, and that difference lies in the crunch. A jimmie is soft when chewed, while a sprinkle delivers a definite bite in your mouth.
Important Tips From the Chef
For reasons unknown to me, I have been named the official 'brigadeiro maker' in my family. Everyone else claims they do not know how. And, of course, that I know best. Whether it is all just a ploy to pass the buck, they will never admit and I will never know. In the end, they just appear mysteriously on the kitchen counter for all to enjoy.
Truth is, when we lived in Brazil, we had a lovely woman by the name of Elza who lived with us and helped around the house and in the kitchen. After we moved, her work shifted to others in the family. I laugh now because this bears much resemblance to my story. Much like the Brigadier General's wife or our household help who did all the work but none of the credit, I find myself hunched over the stove, stirring and stirring.
But with my title also came liberty to experiment and I have learned a few key things with this recipe:
- Never omit the butter: the candies will not be nearly as smooth.
- Use low heat, even if the process seems tedious. The difference in the results is definitely noticeable.
- Do not use powdered baking chocolate: while you might be tempted to save on the sugar, the final taste is not comparable to the real thing.
- If the mixture becomes to soft and sticky while rolling into balls, first try using more butter on your hands. If that does not work, place mixture in the refrigerator to harden.
Presentation for Brigadeiros
Brigadeiros are traditionally served in individual liners and arranged on a platter. Growing up these were widely available in a rainbow of colors. It was most common to see them in a foil like, shiny finish.
The size of these liners can be tricky to find here in the United States. Online is your best bet. Get what you can - size matters more than style. The only color that would probably not be suitable is brown as the brigadeiros would not present well.
- In a medium saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk, chocolate Nesquick, and butter.
- Over low to medium heat, bring the mixture to a slow boil, stirring CONSTANTLY. Be sure to scrape side and bottom of the saucepan frequently and thoroughly. Much like making caramel, the mixture can burn quickly. Also, if mixture bubbles up (similar to boiling milk), reduce heat.
- After approximately 20 minutes, mixture will begin to thicken. Continue cooking and stirring until you can see the bottom of your saucepan when scraping your spoon. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let mixture cool completely. The hot mixture is nearly impossible to touch. I often let the mixture cool on the stovetop overnight.
- Use remaining butter and spread over both palms of your hands.
- Scoop approximately one teaspoon full of the brigadeiro mixture and form into a ball.
- Roll brigadeiro in chocolate sprinkles.
- Place brigadeiro in candy liner and arrange on a platter.