A Box of Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Truffles)

February 15, 2010 at 11:07 pm 101 comments

Tangerine Brigadeiro

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.

Coconut Lemon Brigadeiro

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.

Cayenne Cinnamon Brigadeiro

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.

Tangerine Brigadeiro

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.

White Chocolate-Dipped Lavender Almond Brigadeiro

[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.]

Hazelnut-Nutella 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

Coconut Lemon
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)

Cayenne Cinnamon
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

Disk of brigadeiro dough with a nutella-coated hazelnut

Entry filed under: Other Treats. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Vanilla Bean Jasmine Rice Pudding Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

101 Comments Add your own

  • 1. G.  |  February 20, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    these look absolutely stunning!!! wonderful job.

  • 2. thecookieshop  |  February 21, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Hi Elissa! I LOVED your brigadeiros, they are so original and delicious! I’m a Brazilian baker and sell a lot of brigadeiros for parties, yours really inspired me!
    About Lisa’s question: brigadeiros can be kept in airtight containers at room temperature for up to three days, in the fridge for a week or more, or even frozen in plastic bags for fours months – just let them thaw completely without opening the bags to avoid condensation.
    Love your blog.
    Happy baking.

  • 3. Kristina  |  February 21, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Made these for the family last night. DE-LICIOUS! My husband devoured them. I did the lavender, cinnamon/cayenne and lemon/coconut. I’ll definitely be making these again with different flavor combinations. Thanks for the recipe!

  • 4. publichealth11  |  February 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    אחלה מתכון
    מתכוני בריאות

  • 5. Rafaela Perazzolo  |  February 22, 2010 at 3:13 am

    girl, your site and your pastries are really beautiful! congratulations!

  • 6. cupcakeswin=]  |  February 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    they look yummy

    i havent heard of those bel- whateveritis- things

    You have a nice variety in your posts

    How did u get started in photography?


  • 7. Patricia Scarpin  |  February 25, 2010 at 5:33 am

    As a Brazilian I have to say your brigadeiros are stunning! Perfect! Such wonderful flavor variations, I loved them!

    Your photos are amazing as well.

  • 8. Kim, Rambling Family Manager  |  February 25, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Well, I made two batches of plain Brigadeiros using your basic recipe and they both turned out well, with one difference. I got tired of stirring and stopped cooking too early on the second batch and they were STICKY, STICKY, STICKY!!! The first batch was sticky too but not anywhere near as much. I didn’t mess with the flavorings and extras; I made them for an event with a lot of people and I was working against the clock so I just kept it basic. I did use a few different toppings, though; colored sprinkles (jimmies), decorator’s sugar, cinnamon sugar, and white chocolate. (Just a few got the white chocolate; I had a bar of it I needed to use up.) The sprinkles didn’t stick well to the first batch but held like magic to the second batch so there’s something to be said for the stickiness, but it was awfully hard to work with. The sugars were the best and my daughter declared the cinnamon sugar her favorite.

    Anyway, our event is tonight where they will be given out to over 200 people, and I am so pleased with the results!!


    • 9. Elissa  |  February 25, 2010 at 9:37 pm

      Kim – So glad they turned out well! My brigadeiros weren’t too sticky, even when I forgot to grease my hands, but like you said – it was harder to get toppings to stick. Two of my school friends also made them this week, one of them had terrible difficulties with stickiness and the other said it was a breeze. But everyone agrees, the taste of the final result makes them completely worth it :)

  • 10. Erin Alease  |  March 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I just stumbled across your post because I recently (yesterday) became obsessed with brigadeiros…. This afternoon after I made my variation on them, I came to my computer and searched them to see what other people have done. Yours are beautiful and definitely give me some ideas. I took brownies and crumbled them and drizzled them with rum extract and added them to my brigadeiro “dough” before it cooled. I also used unsweetened cocoa powder and added some brown sugar and a little instant coffee. Then I dipped them in chocolate. They’re delicious and so fast to make. I’ll definitely be trying some of your variations too!

  • 11. Maryann  |  March 10, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Tihs is the reason I like 17andbaking.com. Surprising post.

  • 12. Jelli  |  March 11, 2010 at 8:21 am

    I made the basic recipe yesterday for these brigadeiros and hadn’t paid enough attn to the instructions. I wound up with a bowl of hard crunchy candy. Thankfully, I was able to salvage this “oops!” by re-melting the candy and spreading it on a silpat, covering this with chocolate and breaking it up into toffee. Let me just say that for anyone else who accidentally overcooks these candies, the toffee is a wonderfully tasty save. Yum! Better luck next time.

    • 13. Elissa  |  March 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm

      Jelli – Thanks for the tip! Good to know that the “brigadeiro toffee” was good… I might have to try that on purpose! Sounds intriguing!

  • 14. Paul Helzer  |  March 12, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Very impressive blog. What are you using to light your photos? I love the halo effect of highlighting details. Are they sources with lens controls or perhaps just black wrap?

    • 15. Elissa  |  March 12, 2010 at 9:24 pm

      Paul Helzer – Thank you! I don’t have any external lighting and I don’t use flash, so I use natural light in every photo on this blog. It means I have a limited window to take food photos, but I just don’t think anything looks better than diffused sunlight. Embarrassingly enough I don’t know a lot about photography so I’m not familiar with sources with lens controls or black wrap… there is a lot of shadow along with the light in my kitchen and the “halo effect” happens naturally. I also enhance it by burning the edges of my photos when I go back and edit. Thanks for reading! :)

  • 16. Juliana  |  March 24, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Hi !
    I’m Brazilian and I must say I loved the way you cooked our “brigadeiros”. They are a very common treat here in our birthday parties, but we don’t normally add any ingredients to “the base dough” . Sometimes, we even make them white, with no cocoa powder at all, just the condensed milk and butter. Or we add coconut to this white dough, making “beijinhos”, and if you add a piece of dried prune, you get “olhos-de-sogra”(mother in law’s eyes =D ). Or we mix the white dough with the chocolate one, making what we call “casadinhos” (which means married in English). I personally like them sugar-coated and with shortbread cookie chunks, added after we remove them from the heat! Delicious!
    Congratulation on the blog, it’s awesome! Love the pics!

  • 17. Juliana  |  March 24, 2010 at 10:58 am


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  • 20. Erin  |  November 14, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I made these a few weeks ago and they were a hit! I made the whole batch with the hazelnuts. Mostly because I am a sucker for nutella, and they were all so good. I couldn’t keep my hands off the serving dish!

  • 21. Kristie  |  December 5, 2010 at 5:48 am

    what brand/type of cocoa did you use?

  • 22. Veronica  |  December 18, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Nice photography!!!! I love baking and photography as well. I have the canon Rebel. I am looking to upgrade it soon. I am also brazilian from salvador bahia, andI have to say your photography and recipes caught my attention. Nice work~check out my site on grouprecipes.com…my screen name is cubralinda~ have a lot of recipes on there you might like!! Thanks for sharing~Merry Christmas~!!!

  • 23. izmir escort  |  December 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Made these for the family last night. DE-LICIOUS! My husband devoured them. I did the lavender, cinnamon/cayenne and lemon/coconut. I’ll definitely be making these again with different flavor combinations. Thanks for the recipe!

  • 24. Ariana Pazzini  |  January 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Congratulations for the post!
    Here in Brazil the brigadier’s very popular in children’s parties and among the older ones too!
    And the amount of combinations is vast!
    I have a store that only sells brigadiers
    Try substituting chocolate for bittersweet chocolate or white chocolate bar!
    It is wonderful!

  • 25. Ana Helena Campbell  |  February 23, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Wow! you really capture what brigadeiros really are. Your recipe is very authentic! Growing up in Brazil I had them very often. It is a icon in every children’s birthday party. Without them life is just not the same:). Thank you for sharing this delicious!

  • 26. Alyssa  |  March 5, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    It looks delicious. What exactly is culinary lavender? Is it ground or in buds? Also, is it possible to substitute the culinary lavender for lavender extract? If so, in what quantity?Thank you.

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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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