Brigadeiros

Belle received a children’s cookbook of global cuisine a while back, and has been obsessed with the idea of making “sprinkle balls” aka brigadeiros ever since. For whatever reason, this week was the week we finally made them. Let me tell you, this is the easiest recipe ever to use up all the remaining jars of sprinkles in your pantry. And/plus/also, it’s super tasty.

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We didn’t have a particular learning target (except maybe patience) – this was more just Mama saying an enthusiastic “yes!” to Belle’s interest and letting her take control of the process. However, we did incorporate some techniques from our spatial visualization post by using the tip of the knife to scrape along the top of the butter stick and pausing at each line – scrape, 1 tablespoon, scrape, 2 tablespoons, scrape, 3 tablespoons – to demonstrate how the tablespoons are a volume that starts from one end, not just an arbitrary line in space.

Belle greasing the pan
Do this first, before the chocolate burns to the pan while you madly rush for both pan and butter.

We also tried to let Belle read the recipe (at least the numbers) and open the can of condensed milk, practicing her bilateral coordination and grip strength.

Belle stirring the chocolate mixture
Practicing our helping hand and stirring hand, and practicing patience.

The most joyful part of the recipe, though, was definitely rolling the balls in sprinkles. BECAUSE SPRINKLES. And, of course, laughing as Buddy started just eating sprinkles and fudge.

Buddy eating sprinkles instead of decorating with them
Buddy put sprinkles in a bowl, but not so much on any brigadeiros.

We also paired the recipe with some light unit studies on Brazil, home of the brigadeiro, by finding the country on the map and listening to folk tales called “The Glittering Gourd” and “The Tug of War” as recounted on the podcast Circle Round. We’ll keep the focus there with a few stories about the Amazon (Along the Tapajós and a reread of The Great Kapok Tree), researching some foods grown there (like coffee and cocoa), dancing to some music (pulling from the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremonies), learning a bit about futebol from Uncle Dave (our favorite soccer coach), and coloring some pictures of Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue. (Mama may dig up a bottle of cachaça for a caipirinha.)

Belle adding sprinkles
This mostly finished multi-sprinkle jar? Now recycled. Let’s make more and finish off its mate!

Although we didn’t make the brigadeiros for the trip, we decided to bring them along the next day when we visited the grandparents. Daniel Tiger sings “Making something is one way to say I love you,” and we use that strategy a lot to impart manners like bringing a host(ess) gift or writing a thank you note.

Sharing a tin of brigadeiros with Grammie
Who needs to keep that much chocolate when we can spread the joy of sprinkles around?!

Skills worked on:

  • Patience (in stirring and chilling)
  • Reading numbers
  • Fine motor: Grip strength
  • Fine motor: Bilateral coordination
  • Social-emotional: sharing
  • Food prep!

Equipment needed:

  • 8″x8″ pan (or similar size)
  • small saucepan
  • whisk
  • rubber spatula
  • spoon
  • several small bowls for coatings

This recipe is adapted from Cooking Class: Global Feast. We adapted slightly, using dark chocolate cocoa powder (to use it up) and some espresso powder (because I almost always add that for depth of chocolate flavor), although that’s not traditional.

Soft ball stage of the chocolate mixture
When the chocolate stays off the pan for a few seconds, take the pan off the heat. You want the candy to retain its soft chewiness and ball shape.

Recipe (45 min prep, 2-12 hours chill, 30 min prep; yield: 24-30 1″ balls):

  • 3 tbsp butter, plus some for greasing
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder or Nesquik
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • optional: 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • sprinkles/jimmies/nonpareils/coconut/crushed oreo/crushed nuts for coating, approx. 1/3 cup total
  1. Grease an 8″x8″ pan with butter.
  2. Melt 3 tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Whisk in 1/4 c cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk, and an optional 1/2 tsp espresso powder.
  4. Continue stirring with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides to avoid burning, for 10-20 minutes. Chocolate mixture will start to pull away from the pan and take a few seconds to refill the space, and will loose a bit of its sheen.
  5. Scrape mixture into the buttered pan and smooth. Refrigerate (optionally covered) for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  6. Set out several bowls of coatings and cover the bottom with sprinkles (or your choice of coating).
  7. Use a spoon to scrape out about 1 tsp of mixture at a time. With buttered hands, roll the chocolate mixture into a ball and then thoroughly coat in sprinkles or alternative. Place on parchment or wax paper to store.
  8. Store at room temperature or refrigerate several days (if they last that long) in an air tight container. Freezing and gradual thawing in refrigerator would likely extend the life.

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