A Box of Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Truffles)
When my DSLR camera arrived in the mail, matte black and quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, the first place I went was the kitchen.
Up until then, I’d been using a small, compact digital camera to take my food photos. While I was satisfied with the results, I knew I wanted something more. I wanted a camera that caught the rich sheen of chocolate glaze, the buttery crumble of shortbread, and the vivid colors of buttercream frosting. And while my digital camera could take a photograph of a dessert, it didn’t capture the real essence of what made each dessert truly, fork-halfway-to-your-mouth delicious.
But with my new Canon Rebel XTi, I felt sure that everything was about to change. I lifted my camera to my cheek, felt my eyelashes brush against the viewfinder, and pressed the button gently. My first photograph was a basket of green and gold apples in a woven basket, steeped in the most beautiful afternoon light I’d ever seen. I actually set the camera down to do a little dance right there on the kitchen tiles, feeling utterly radiant.
Since then, taking photographs has become just as fulfilling as baking a creamy, uncracked cheesecake or writing a seamless short story. I take long walks around the neighborhood with the Canon around my neck, glancing everywhere like I could take a picture with my eyes. I look for the extraordinary in the details, for interesting shadows and whimsical patterns.
Every time I check the photos I’ve taken, it’s a mixed bag. There will always be a couple that are slightly out of focus or didn’t replicate the view in my head. I don’t think a good camera makes a photographer. But when I get a shot that makes me as giddy as that beautifully simple photo of a basket of apples, I feel like a life spent seeking breathtaking photos would be a life well spent.
I sent that photograph of the apples to my dad the day I took it. I included a brief, but cheery message with it: “Look!!! This is unedited, straight out of the camera! I think I’m just going to have to send you a photo every single day.”
And you know what? I didn’t think much of that last sentence at the time, but it’s been nine months and he’s kept me to it.
Every day, whether the sky releases a torrent of rain or I get home at nine with a headache and a temper, I send a daily photo. It’s a different image every day… pastel sunrises, wrought-iron fences, even self-portraits if I’m feeling ambitious. And though it isn’t always easy to come up with a new photo, it keeps me photographing the way 17 and Baking keeps me writing.
As it turns out, I love photographing almost anything – people, dilapidated houses, animals, unusual textures – more than food.
There is a side effect to the daily photos, though. I don’t like my dad to look through my camera. I love surprises. I love being surprised, I love planning surprises, and I definitely like surprising other people, so I always want the daily photo to be new when my dad checks for it every night. Unfortunately, I think I care more than he does, so sometimes we fight over the Canon.
“Dad. Seriously. Don’t look through it. I just got back from downtown and there’s a lot of daily photos in there.”
“Good!” He’ll press the buttons to look through the saved photos, a thoughtful look on his face before I’ll try to snatch the camera back.
“It should be a surprise!” And then I’ll get served with the roll of his eyes, his mild annoyance, and that too-familiar face that says “Oh please.” But I always persist.
But after we made this brigadeiros – Brazilian fudge truffles we made at the request of a reader – I surprised both of us by being somewhat open. I normally make him leave when I photograph food, preferring to be alone to avoid the pressure of his presence as well as his advice. But that day I let him stand off to the side as I adjusted settings, taking the same photo over and over.
When he asked what I was doing, I even turned over the camera to show him. Who knows. Surprises are important, but maybe a little family time with five dozen truffles and a set of pretty photographs is kind of important too.
I’d never heard of brigadeiros before, but when someone asked for them through a comment on an old post, I was tickled. Dad and I looked them up together and realized that they were a snack his grandmother had made for him when he was a little boy, exactly the same. Whether they evoked memories or not, though, they were my first request and I didn’t even consider not making them.
With Dad’s help, we decided on five variations: coconut lemon, cayenne cinnamon, tangerine, hazelnut-nutella (think Ferrero Rocher), and white chocolate-dipped lavender almond. It may sound like a mouthful, but actually, this might be the easiest thing I’ve ever made. To make five dozen truffles, including five different variations and a trip to the grocery store, the entire process took us two hours.
The base is only 3 ingredients, but gosh, these are delicious. The entire week we’ve said, “Wow. We need to give these away.” But we haven’t. We just keep eating them. For once, I don’t feel like the photos do the brigadeiros justice.
[PS: I'm thinking about doing a frequently-asked questions post, so feel free to leave a comment with a question for me. I'll pick out some questions and answer them in a later post. You can ask about anything, food-related or not, and I might answer it! :) Hope you all had a great valentine's day. I spent it eating brigadeiros.]
Three ingredients and endless possibilities! You can be so, so creative with the brigadeiros. And you positively cannot go wrong with cocoa powder, butter, and sweetened condensed milk.
Frankly, I might call the white chocolate-dipped lavender almond brigadeiros a failure because the lavender wasn’t very prominent. But even so, they were delicious. It was impossible to pick a favorite in my opinion. My dad’s favorite was the tangerine, because the flavor was so bright and sunny. But I know he also really liked the hazelnut and the cayenne.
“Truffle” is a little misleading, but “fudge” isn’t quite right either – both together are a little more accurate. Once chilled, the brigadeiros have the texture of a very thick caramel, but without the super stickiness. They’re rich and creamy and chewy. They’re really divine, so thank you to the reader who asked for them! They were delicious and I would completely make them again.
I’d love to try even more flavor possibilities. Maybe roasted banana, grapefruit, lemon and mint, walnut and maple?? Any extract, liquor, spice, or ingredient can probably be incorporated. Of course, they are also quite good as is, no variation required.
Assorted Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Truffles)
Makes 5 dozen total (can be halved)
Makes a dozen of each of the following: white chocolate-dipped lavender almond, coconut lemon, tangerine, hazelnut-nutella, and cayenne cinnamon.
Base Brigadeiro Dough
2 (14 oz) cans of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
White Chocolate-Dipped Lavender Almond
Scant 1/8 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp culinary lavender
2 oz white chocolate chips
Scant 1/8 tsp lemon extract
Shredded coconut, for rolling
Zest of half of a tangerine/small mandarin orange, plus more for decorating
1/4 tsp Grand Marnier
Chocolate sprinkles, for rolling
12 whole hazelnuts
2 tablespoons nutella
Chopped hazelnuts, for rolling (preferably toasted and skinned)
Scant 1/8 tsp cayenne powder, plus more for decoration
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture comes together into a thick batter. [Really do stir constantly. It'll take 10-15 minutes and you might want to have a book or something.] When you tilt the pan, the mixture should not stick to the bottom of the pan, but slide cohesively like a dough. Cook further for another minute or so.
Remove from heat and divide amongst 5 bowls, about 1/2 cup dough each. [You might want to grease the bowls first, but I didn't, and didn't have any problems.] In your first bowl, add the almond extract. In the second bowl, add the lemon extract. In the third bowl, add the tangerine zest and the Grand Marnier. In the fourth bowl, add the cayenne powder and the cinnamon. And leave the fifth bowl untouched (for the hazelnut-nutella). [You could mark the bowls, or identify through taste.] Let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, for the hazelnut brigadeiros, roll a dozen whole hazelnuts individually in a bit of nutella. Just try to coat them evenly. Put them in the freezer. These will make it easier to get the hazelnut, and a layer of nutella, inside the brigadeiros.
For the white chocolate-dipped lavender almond brigadeiros, melt the white chocolate either in a double boiler or using the microwave. Stir in the culinary lavender and keep warm.
Using a small cookie scoop, teaspoon, or melon-baller, scoop out the dough and roll it between lightly-greased palms. You can make any size you want, mine are about an inch in diameter. I would work with one flavor at a time.
Dip the almond brigadeiros in the white chocolate, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll the lemon brigadeiros in shredded coconut before placing on the sheet. Roll the tangerine brigadeiros in chocolate sprinkles, then top with zest. Top the cayenne brigadeiros with a bit of cayenne powder. For the hazelnut brigadeiros, flatten the ball into a disk and wrap around the chilled hazelnut/nutella, then roll in chopped hazelnuts.
Eat immediately, or chill brigadeiros.
Printer-Friendly Recipe – Assorted Brigadeiros
Entry filed under: Other Treats. Tags: almond, brazilian, cayenne, chili powder, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, creamy, gluten free, grand marnier, hazelnuts, holiday, lavender, lemon, nutella, orange, spicy, sweetened condensed milk, white chocolate.