I was glued to the TV coverage of the 2016 Olympics in Rio last week. Swimming and gymnastics have always been my favorites of the summer competitions, but this year I marveled at the white water rafting, volleyball, and pretty much everything else.
So with Brazil, and Rio in particular, on my mind, I was thinking about my friend and colleague chef Daniel Biron and his brand new restaurant Teva in Rio. Opened just a few days, it is already garnering raves. I was very interested when Anna Paula, another Brazilian friend told me about about brigadeiro, saying this very sweet fudgy confection is a staple sweet at children’s birthday parties in Brazil.
Since brigaderios are typically made from sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter, then rolled into balls and coated with sprinkles, it seemed easy to do – and it was, once I made the vegan sweetened condensed milk. I couldn’t see why butter was needed in the mixture or to coat my hands before rolling, which is typically done, so I left those steps out. I did use more cocoa powder than most recipes specified.
The vegan sweetened condensed milk was easy but it does take time, as the milk has to reduce for over an hour. I decided to take the condensed milk to dulce de leche by reducing it further, thinking the thicker, taster cooked milk would work best. Then, making the fudgy base was easy.
Anna Paula’s mother who was visiting from Brazil, gave these thumbs up. I hope you will too!
The National Truffle of Brazil
Yield: about 1 cup fudge base, 12 to 14 brigadeiros
There are many recipes for brigadeiros. Even with the large amount of sugar, this version is still less sweet than traditional versions. This recipe is long, but trust me, it’s just dulce de leche and cocoa. The dulce can be made ahead and refrigerated in a covered container for two weeks.
Tips for Success
Freeze the brigadeiro mixture before shaping the truffles. If they get too soft to shape at any point, put them back into the freezer. Plan to wash and dry your hands a few times. Keeping the fudge very cold, and using plastic wrap to push the fudge into balls is helpful.
For the Dulce de Leche
- 3 1/4 cups soy milk
- 1 1/4 cups organic cane sugar (or use coconut sugar)
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Brigaderios
- 1/4 cup Dutched or natural cocoa powder. Here it is a matter of taste. I used Dutched.
- 1/2 cup vegan sprinkles, coconut flakes, and chopped nuts to coat, or as needed
- small paper candy cups
Make the Dulce de Leche
- Combine all of the ingredients except the vanilla in a large heavy bottom saucepan. The wider the saucepan, the faster the milk will reduce. Have a 4-cup measure ready near the stove.
- Bring the milk, sugar, and salt to a low boil over medium low heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low, adjusting heat as needed to maintain an active simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, whisking often.
- After about 30 minutes you will see the bubbles in the milk get more active and bigger, even on lowest heat, while the milk gets darker as it caramelizes.
- At 45 minutes, pour the milk into the measuring cup. Whisk until the bubbling stops and measure. You want 1 cup, so cooking longer is likely. It took 1 1/4 hours until my milk was fully reduced. Cook as long as needed. Once the milk has fully reduced, remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
- Either proceed to making the brigaderios, or cool and refrigerate the dulce de leche in a covered jar until needed.
Make the Brigaderios
- Whisk the cocoa powder into warm dulce de leche in two additions. Chocolate mixtures burn easily, so stir constantly with both a silicon spatula and whisk, reaching the sides and bottom of the saucepan. The bottom of the saucepan will film but it should not burn.
- Cook at an active simmer for 5 minutes until the fudge is thick and shiny. Put a very small amount into a little dish and refrigerate 10 minutes to test. Cover the saucepan to keep the mixture warm. If the test can be pushed into a ball, albeit a soft and sticky one, scrape it into a shallow container lined with plastic wrap, and allow to cool. Freeze a few hours. If the test is much too soft, cook a minute or two longer.
Shape the Brigaderios
Traditional recipes call for pulling off pieces of the fudge and rolling into balls in buttered hands. I am not buttering my hands, not even with vegan butter.
- Have bowls of sprinkles, shredded coconut and chopped nuts ready.
- Spoon teaspoon size pieces into the palm of your hand and roll them into balls.
- Drop the balls into the sprinkles, coconut flakes, or chopped nuts. and serve in little candy cups. Store the finished brigaderios in the freezer.
I’d like to know if you’ve ever eaten this confection. And if you make these, or the sweetened condensed milk, please let me know.