Brazil’s impressive array of desserts echoes the country’s geographic and cultural diversity. On one hand, indigenous tropical fruits such as papaya and coconut receive their moment in the spotlight. On the other hand, the colonial European influence is clear in sweet dairy-based desserts that closely mirror delicacies found in Spain and Portugal. While no single Brazilian dessert enjoys worldwide fame on the same level as tiramisu or creme brulee, perhaps, certain desserts instantly evoke the country’s cuisine.
Indigenous guava features prominently in Brazilian desserts, either as the filling in a bolo de rolo sponge cake, or as one-half of the curiously palatable Romeo and Juliet dessert, officially known as goiabada com queijo, a juxtaposition of sweet guava paste and cheese. Typically, Brazilian requeijao or Catupiry cheese complements the guava, but a creamy Muenster or havarti will also do. Like many other Latin American countries, Brazil enjoys a sweet flan. The pudim de leite condensado is a mixture of eggs, sugar, milk and condensed milk that makes a smooth, round flan, which is topped with a caramel sauce.
When visiting celebrity British chef Jamie Oliver lambasted Brazil’s favorite national sweet, brigadeiro, on national TV, the criticism touched a nerve. Certainly, the cloying mix of condensed milk simmered with cocoa powder, whisked in butter and rolled in chocolate sprinkles, is overwhelmingly sweet, but nobody in Brazil seems to mind. The Brazilian twist on chocolate truffles is ubiquitous at parties, particularly children’s birthday parties. Beijinho de coco is the coconut version of the truffle, with desiccated coconut instead of chocolate for an equally sweet finish.
Acai na tigela, or acai in a bowl, reputed for its health benefits rather than its ample calories, hails from the Amazon region in the north where the berry of the palm tree is abundant. In essence, the blended purple fruit is a smoothie, but topping it with granola or other fresh fruit, such as banana, berries, or nuts, repositions it as a dessert. In most places, particularly around beach areas, the pulp is frozen to make a sorbet-like concoction with a pleasant earthy taste, since the berry perishes rapidly after it's picked.
Coconut and tropical fruit play a big part in Brazilian desserts. Simmer shredded coconut, condensed milk and sugar together; then allow the mixture to cool, and you have flat, chewy cocada cakes. Alternatively, papaya blended with vanilla ice cream and topped with black-currant liqueur or cassis constitutes the cream of papaya, credited with aiding digestion after a particularly heavy churrascaria barbecued meat feast. Quindim combines shredded coconut, eggs, sugar and butter, with a sweetness comparable to brigadeiro. A favorite in Bahia, the sweet custard cakes are baked in molds in the oven to provide a shiny surface and sufficient structure for them to hold together.
- BBC Good Food: Top 10 Foods to Try in Brazil
- SBS: Brazilian Recipes and Brazilian Food
- Huffington Post: Brazilian Foods to Eat During World Cup 2014
- The Guardian: What Jamie Oliver's Brazilian Gaffe Tells Us about Our Deep Emotions over Food
- The Latin Kitchen: Papaya Cream with Cassis Liqueur
- The Latin Kitchen: Pundim de Leite
- The Latin Kitchen: Quindim
- The Latin Kitchen: Cocada
- Maria’s Cookbook: Queijo com goiabada
- Gaiam TV: Brazil's Secret Smoothie, Acai Na Tigela
- Photo Credit FernandoMartini/iStock/Getty Images
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