The history of the brigadeiro is quite modern and rather than re-hash it here, if you want to know more click this link to read the article on Wikipedia.
When I visited Brazil back in 2017 I encountered two distinct versions and was told about a third type - the most common (brigadeiros are the quintessential kids birthday treat ... sweet and easy to make but not rising to the level of gourmet, and not intended to).
In the following photo you can see two versions of gourmet brigadeiros from Maria Brigadeiro and Amma in São Paulo. These build on the original simple recipe of the brigadeiro (butter, sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder) with higher-quality ingredients. Maria’s brigadeiros substitute some or all of the cocoa powder with imported (Belgian-made) chocolate, flavorings, and an expanded range of ingredients for the outer decoration beyond chocolate sprinkles. Amma’s use their own chocolate as well as high-quality ingredients for the decoration. (And when combined with a mug of their excellent hot chocolate with toasted fresh coconut elevate the entire genre to a new level.)
For Super Bowl LIII I decided to try to recreate what I tasted at Amma with an adult twist – dark rum. Considering this was the first time I ever tried to make brigadeiros I have to admit I did an okay job. I also have to admit that my first batch, which was the basic recipe for the kids at the party was not as ... refined?
- Two tablespoons butter
- 1, 14oz can sweetened condensed milk (leite condensado in Portuguese)
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge – the better the cocoa powder the better the tastier the finished result)
- Optional: 1 tsp sea salt (I used Jacobsen from Oregon because that’s what I had on hand)
- Optional: 2 ounces dark chocolate chopped so it melts easily
- Optional: 1 tsp vanilla extract (or other flavoring)
- Optional: 1/4 cup dark rum or other spirit
- Toasted coconut, sprinkles, nuts, cinnamon sugar, etc.
- In a bowl, mix the cocoa powder into the sweetened condensed milk until fully incorporated and there are no lumps.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. (The larger the saucepan the faster this will go. If you have a non-stick pan, use that.)
- When the butter is melted add in the salt and the the cocoa/condensed milk. Use a scraper to get everything out of the bowl.
- Stir the mixture continuously over medium-low heat. If the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan the heat’stoo high. This is the tricky part of the recipe, knowing how far to cook the mixture down. You can take it so the texture of the finished product when cool is like a one of those cubic wrapped grocery/drug store caramels – great for younger kids. You really want the mixture to thicken to the texture of a chewy caramel (which it is, sort of) that holds its shape, but just.
- At this point if you want to, you can add chocolate, flavoring, and/or spirits you can and fully melt/incorporate. The mixture will thin out, just continue to cook until it thickens back up.
- Remove the mixture from the pan to a buttered container and allow to cool to room temperature. Pop into the fridge for an hour or three to set up. This will make the next step easier.
- With a spoon or disher, measure the center out into even portions, roll between buttered hands into even spheres, then drop into a plate with the exterior decoration and roll them about to completely coat. If you don’t have individual paper cups, pour some of the exterior decoration material into a container with sides and place the finished brigadeiro in the container, sprinkling decoration in as need to prevent sticking. Cover and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
- Remove from the fridge and let wait a least an hour so they reach room temperature before serving.