In the beginning, brigadeiros (I know it’s hard to pronounce. Just say “brigadier” and you should be pretty close) were nothing but a mixture of condensed milk, Nesquik and butter, stirred over heat until the mixture came off the sides of the pan, cooled, rolled into little balls, and coated with chocolate jimmies.
They are named after Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, which according to the Wikipedia entry for brigadeiros, was a “handsome, well-built, liberal” candidate for presidency in Brazil in 1946 and 1950. Although he failed both times, he was a favorite with women voters, who developed the recipe (courtesy perhaps of Nestle introducing powdered chocolate and condensed milk to the Brazilian market) and sold brigadeiros to raise funds for the dashing brigadier.
Simple brigadeiros are ubiquitous in Brazilian children’s parties. However, most recently, the appearance of “brigadeiros gourmet” (where Nesquik just won’t do) has propelled them into more sophisticated, adult gatherings where variety (semi-sweet, milk, white chocolate) and unusual combinations (pumpkin and almonds, salted caramel, etc.) are sought and enjoyed.
At Bain Marie, a little enterprise founded at Columbia University’s graduate student kitchens, brigadeiros are made with Belgian chocolate and other high brow items. They join Brigadeiro Bakery and My Sweet Brigadeiro in spreading the brigadier’s sweets all over New York.
I ordered several boxes from Bain Marie this past holiday season to give as gifts and they were universally appreciated. I ate two 24pc boxes pretty much by myself. They are small.