I read about these little orbs of heaven a few months back and have ruminated on them ever since.
They originated in Brazil in the 1900s, the product of cooks’ ingenuity for dealing with various shortages and limited refrigeration. Named for a dashing brigadier who had a reputation with the ladies, these simple and decadent sweets are ubiquitous at celebrations in Brazil.
Because they are so simple, require few ingredients and do not use the oven, they seemed a good recipe to try as the temperatures rise. I prefer my brigadieros plain, but many traditionalists roll them in sprinkles.
The resulting candy is somewhere between a truffle, a caramel and fudge — kind of like the best gourmet version of a Tootsie Roll you can possibly imagine.
1¾ cups condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for your hands
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting
Pinch kosher salt
Line a baking tray with parchment and set it aside.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Add the condensed milk, cocoa and salt, and whisk it until the texture is smooth and uniform. Raise the heat to medium and stir constantly with a heatproof spatula until the mixture is shiny and begins to pull away from the pan and the spatula leaves a trail as you stir. This takes between 5-10 minutes.
When the mixture is done, scrape it out onto the parchment-lined cooking tray, and let it sit at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes, or until it is cool enough to touch.
While the mixture sets, place about ¼ cup of cocoa powder on a saucer. Using a tablespoon, scrape portions of the mixture up, then, with buttered hands, roll the bits into a ball. Roll the brigadieros in the cocoa on the saucer until they are dusted.
These will keep in the refrigerator for several days (but they won’t last that long!) or can be frozen for several months.