Condensed milk makes everything better

1 Jul

When I lived in Brazil, I discovered that sweetened condensed milk is like peanut butter; it tastes good on just about everything. They sell it everywhere, it’s super cheap and you can bake with it, cook with it and just eat it straight from the can. We’d pour it over strawberries and mangoes, ice cream and cakes. I have a sweet tooth and it’s just the right amount of sweet.

When I got back from Brazil the second time, I invested in a pressure cooker. I’ve never used it to cook anything except cans of condensed milk. Why would you cook a can of condensed milk? To make doce de leite/dulce de leche, of course! You just pop a can of condensed milk (completely unopened) in the pressure cooker filled with water and a little vinegar (so the inside of the cooker doesn’t stain black). Put it over the burner and let it cook for 20 minutes to an hour depending on how you want the consistency of your doce de leite to be.  20 minutes would get you a thin, syrupy doce de leite, which is perfect for ice creams and cake drizzles. 45 – 60 minutes gets you a nice chewy caramel like product. You can cut it into pieces and eat it by itself. Delicious. And trust me, it’s so much more than just caramel.

This leads me to the other two most amazing things to do with condensed milk. Brigadeiros and beijinhos. I’m a little partial to the brigadeiros because I love chocolate. They’re a small Brazilian candy best described as a chocolate caramel. Beijinhos are coconut based with no chocolate but still have a chewy caramel consistency.

Minha mãe brasileira taught me how to make both and I make the brigadeiros basically every chance I get. They’re a little time consuming by the result is completely worth it.

Brigadeiros

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

sprinkles (chocolate or colored), chopped nuts or additional cocoa powder; you just need something to roll the brigadeiros in once they’re cooled

In a medium sized pot, combine the first three ingredients over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to mix the ingredients thoroughly. You’ll have to continue stirring throughout the cooking process or you’ll scorch the condensed milk. Once the mixture is bubbling, reduce the heat to a medium-low and continue stirring. You want the mixture to be slightly bubbly but not really boiling. As the condensed milk cooks, it will start to thicken. If it starts to boil, reduce the heat slightly (and make sure to keep stirring!). The time is always different depending on the heat used. It usually takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes to cook. You’ll know it’s done when you tilt the pot slightly and the mixture completely sticks together. It’ll be one giant blob (that’s the scientific term) of thick condensed milk. As you tilt the pan, there shouldn’t be anything left on the bottom; it should all have run to one corner. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool.  You can place the pot in the refrigerator to speed up the process or just leave it on a counter. When it’s cool enough to handle comes the fun part. Pour the sprinkles or nuts or whatever you’ve decided to use as coating onto a plate. Butter (or cooking spray) your hands. If you skip that step, you’ll be licking brigadeiro off your fingers and palms forever (which may not be such a bad thing). Pick up pieces of the brigadeiro and roll between your palms to create balls. You can really make them any size you want. I prefer smaller ones because I can eat more. Once you’ve rolled a ball, drop it onto your sprinkles and coat completely. Repeat the balling process. You’ll have to re-butter your hands periodically as you notice the brigadeiros becoming sticker and more difficult to roll.

And that’s it. The hardest part for me is the waiting for the brigadeiros to cool. Mostly because I’m so anxious that I just want to eat the stuff right off the spoon.

I’ve seen places in Brazil that put strawberries and cherries in the center as they roll the brigadeiros. Maybe not so traditional but delicious nevertheless.

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