What's in a Brigadeiro?
From the outside, a brigadeiro resembles a hand-rolled truffle, or truffe nature. It is anything but.
The center of a classic brigadeiro is made by cooking down sweetened condensed milk until it is the consistency of a chewy caramel. When cool and set it's quite firm and can be rolled into balls which are then coated. Coatings can range from tempered chocolate to ground nuts ... pretty much anything.
A view of the open kitchen at Maria Brigadeiro in São Paulo.
But - because the basic substance of the center is sweetened condensed milk, most brigadeiros have a tendency to be quite sweet and are often thought of more suitable for children's birthday parties than for adults - but there is no doubt they are loved as adults, given their role in childhood.
Maria Brigadeiro was founded in 2007 to elevate the brigadeiro to the status of a gourmet candy. I had the opportunity to taste three - a dark, milk, and gianduia.
As you can see, the presentation is quite beautiful. But as someone who did not grow up on brigadeiro it was hard for me to understand what made these different - and better - from most of the other brigadeiros I had on my trip. These were still sweet and, if I wasn't told, I would have had trouble figuring out that there were different flavors involved - just that the exterior decoration was different. Maybe that's just me.
Shortly after leaving Maria Brigadeiro I went to the Amma store and had a selection of theirs, two of three of which which were vegan (made with fresh coconut milk made on-premises), and all had centers that were more properly ganaches than caramels.
Here's the link to my tweet about those - which in turn should take you to Instagram. First impressions? I preferredthe Amma brigadeiros. They were less sweet and it was possible to make out the different flavors of the three. And the hot chocolate – also made with fresh coconut milk and garnished with toasted coconut shreds – ranks up there with the best I have ever had.