Drinks and desserts: the sweet life

Drinks and desserts: the sweet life

By
Fernanda de Paula, Shelley Hepworth
Contains
13 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742706801
Photographer
Stuart Scott

When it comes to sweets and desserts, Brazilians rule the kitchen like they rule the football pitch. The Portuguese landed on Brazilian shores in 1500 AD when sugar was rare and expensive. Sugar was a lucrative product at the time and the colonisers were quick to realise that sugarcane adapted easily to the Brazilian climate and soil. They planted the crop extensively all over the country, particularly in the North-East, and it was a prosperous time for the colony as ships filled with sugar set sail to sweeten the lives of the European elite across the ocean. For Brazil, the sugar trade bore two new loves: sweets drenched in sugar, and cachaça, Brazil’s unique sugarcane spirit.

The Portuguese didn’t come empty-handed either, bringing with them new pantry ingredients and new techniques, along with a centuries-old food tradition that cherished sweets made with egg yolks and milk. The tradition originated in the Catholic convents of Portugal where the nuns developed and sold a rich selection of custards, puddings and doughnuts for extra income. As the church established itself in Brazil, the tradition continued, no doubt fuelled by the sugar trade.

Along with eggs and milk, the ever-present cassava also made its mark on the dessert scene. Cassava flour and sagu (tapioca pearls) are used as the basis of many puddings and cakes, sometimes combined with coconut and condensed milk for a super-sweet treat.

Brazilians are also kings of sweets, which are often served at children’s birthday parties. Brigadeiro is a popular treat, similar in shape to a truffle. Legend has it that the sweet was named during the electoral campaign of 1945, in honour of candidate Brigadeir Eduardo Gomes. Brigadeir was running for presidency with the slogan ‘Vote for Brigadeir. He’s handsome and single’. Apparently the politician won the hearts of scores of girls, who sold the chocolate sweets to raise funds for his campaign.

The wide availability of tropical produce has meant that compotes, juices and smoothies are a popular part of everyday life. In some states, mid-afternoon tea is served and enticing tables are filled with cakes, compotes, cheese and caramel, among other savoury treats. And all over Brazil you’ll find little shops selling Vitaminas, a blend of fruit juice and milk with combinations such as banana or avocado. Unlike the rest of the world, Brazilians use avocado exclusively in sweet dishes, and avocado mousse is a favourite dessert in many households.

Freshly squeezed juices provide much-loved and essential relief from the mostly hot weather, along with another refreshing drink, the acai smoothie, which is sold in juice bars all over the country. A berry that’s harvested from tall palms in the Amazon, acai is used to make this thick, icy drink. With the addition of toasted cassava flour or muesli, an acai smoothie can be a meal in itself.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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