If you want to see a Brazilian’s “O” face, just whisper the word, “brigadeiro.”
Brigadeiros are basically bon-bons made from chocolate and condensed milk, but despite their humble ingredients, Brazilians are almost as passionate about them as they are about soccer. Often home-made, no birthday party, no wedding, no coffee break, and no break-up happens without the indulgent treat.
It was that passion that brought Brazilian entrepreneur Luiza Santos - and her brigadeiro recipes - to San Francisco. With co-founders Diego Chedas and Lucio Novaes, she is on a quest to share Brazil’s brigadeiro obsession with the West Coast.
“In Brazil, brigadeiros are treated like a member of the family,” she says.
The history of Brazil’s national dessert is as rich as the candy itself. Brigadeiros were created in the 1940s, when World War II was interfering with traditional imports. At the same time, a new product was showing up on grocery shelves: Nescau chocolate milk powder. According to the origin story, industrious women in Rio de Janeiro mixed the Nescau with sweetened condensed milk, heated it, then rolled it between buttered hands to make bite-sized balls, which they rolled in sprinkles. They named their confection after Brigadier Eduardo Gomez, a renowned Brazilian revolutionary, politician and military figure. The tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed bachelor spent much of the 1920s in prison, serving time for revolutionary activities. He gained notoriety in 1937 when, as an Air Force Brigadier General, he helped quash a communist coup in Rio. He ran for President in 1945, and again in 1950. Though the Brigadier lost both elections, the brigadeiro won the hearts of Brazilians everywhere.
Santos and her crew are currently making more than 20 flavors of brigadeiros in their private kitchen in SOMA and selling them online at Brigadeiro.me. Besides the best-selling classic chocolate, flavors include caramel, coconut, passion fruit, pistachio, walnut, peanut, and vanilla/chocolate cookie.
Brigadeiros are available for delivery in San Francisco in 1 to 3 business days. Customers can mix and match flavors in boxes of 8, 15, 24 and 30 brigadeiros for prices ranging from $12 to $31. Santos says her team will also deliver brigadeiros to other parts of the Bay Area by special arrangement.