• Makes a great gift or party sweet. (Camellia Aebischer)Source: Camellia Aebischer
Brigadeiros are the ridiculously simple Brazilian sweets with a history rooted in the military and politics.
Camellia Ling Aebischer

16 Mar 2021 - 1:26 PM  UPDATED 17 Mar 2021 - 9:59 AM

Is there anything sweetened condensed milk can’t make?

Recently every time I say the words ‘sweetened condensed milk’ in response to ‘what’s in it?’ my partner laughs at how many cans I’ve been going through to make the recipes for this 'Play with your food' series.

This time it takes a different turn, from the usual caramel, playing on the strengths of cocoa powder to form a fudgy, truffle-like sweet called brigadeiros. The name comes from a Brazilian military rank, brigadier, which supposedly became the sweet’s namesake during a 1945 political campaign for Eduardo Gomes. He was often referenced as ‘the Brigadier’ because of his former ranking, and during his campaign parties this sweet was made to be sold for fundraising, named ‘the brigadeiros’.

Because fresh milk and sugar were scarce at the time, sweetened condensed milk took its place. It was so adored that the sweet became popular not only in Brazil but around the world.

It’s so simple to make and an impressive gift to give. I first had one gifted by a Brazilian friend at university and couldn’t believe her when she explained how to make them. The only thing to watch out for is that you don’t overcook the mix or the sugar will caramelise and they’ll be hard and unpleasantly chewy.

You could roll these in chocolate sprinkles, nuts, shredded coconut or even just cocoa powder.

How to make brigadeiros

Take 1 x 395 g can of sweetened condensed milk and place in a medium-sized pot with 1 tbsp of butter and 3 tbsp of quality cocoa powder.

Set over low heat and cook, stirring constantly (spatula recommended), until the mix begins to thicken to the consistency of a firm, thick custard. It’ll only take about 5 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you can draw a line with a spatula and it takes a couple of seconds before the mixture meets again in the middle.

Turn out onto a dinner plate, and refrigerate 30-45 minutes til cool. Oil or butter your hands and pinch/scoop off a teaspoon of the mix at a time and roll into balls, then drop them straight into chocolate sprinkles and coat evenly.

They’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week and will firm a little more once cooled overnight.

The texture is like a cross between a soft caramel and chocolate truffle.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @cammienoodle

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