Valentine’s Day can be oversaturated with humongous bouquets of roses and abominable heart-bearing teddy bears, but some of the greatest gestures of love can come from your own hands, without a big dent in your wallet. Spoil the loved ones in your life with the easy-to-make Brazilian chocolate truffles known as brigadeiros, plus a bottle of wine to pair with them.
Brigadeiros are one of Brazil’s most widely adored treats, with a platter of these bites showing up at birthday parties, street fairs and even weddings. According to their most common origin story, they were created by a famed Rio de Janeiro confectioner, Heloísa Nabuco de Oliveira, to support the 1946 presidential campaign of military figure Eduardo Gomes. As that was the first Brazilian election in which women had the right to vote, they helped raise funds for his campaign by making and selling the treats, called doce do brigadeiro or brigadier's candy.
While Gomes lost, brigadeiros not only lived on but were carried to other countries by Brazilian emigrants; in the U.S., brigadeiros can be found at Brazilian bakeries, chocolate shops and confectioneries in cities across the country, as well as through online retailers. While these outlets provide visually stunning morsels, brigadeiros can easily be made at home, and a little bit of love goes a long way in overcoming any tiny imperfections.
Using just four ingredients, brigadeiros are both stunningly simple and inexpensive. They are made by essentially caramelizing sweetened condensed milk with butter and powdered chocolate. The traditional chocolate of choice is Nescau, the Brazilian cousin of Nesquik, but for a more “grown-up” option, use Dutch cocoa powder or any quality cocoa of choice. There’s no need for a candy thermometer; to tell if the mixture is properly caramelized, occasionally pause in the constant stirring to drag a spatula along the bottom of the pan. If its trail doesn’t disappear for at least 10 seconds, the cooking stage is complete.
When the concoction becomes cool to the touch, then it’s time to get your hands dirty, rolling the mixture into balls and then coating them with chocolate jimmies. Brigadeiros can, of course, be decorated with any kind of sprinkles (or slivered almonds, shredded coconut or crushed freeze-dried berries), but chocolate sprinkles are classic. If you’re opting to gift these and package them up, you can make the brigadeiros up to a week in advance.
Putting in a little work to create customized truffles, instead of just ordering a box online, is a great way to show your loved ones you care, even beyond Valentine’s Day. But making them together can also be a fun date-night activity. We’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you of some optimal wine pairings for chocolate, so below are 9 wines rated highly by Wine Spectator to help end a romantic evening on a sweet note.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for preparation
- 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
- 3 tablespoons of chocolate powder
- Chocolate sprinkles
- Truffle liners (available online)
- Food-safe gloves (optional)
1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt one tablespoon of butter, then add sweetened condensed milk and chocolate powder.
2. Keeping the pan on low heat, stir the mixture constantly for around 10 to 12 minutes until you can run a spatula along the bottom of the pan and it forms a path that will not fully meld together for at least 10 seconds.
3. Take the saucepan off the heat and let it sit for around 30 minutes until the mixture is cool to the touch.
4. Scatter sprinkles on a large plate. Rub butter over your palms (or food-safe gloves, if using) to make sure the brigadeiro mixture doesn’t stick. Roll the candy into small balls, around 2 centimeters in diameter, then roll in the sprinkles to decorate. Place each in a truffle liner and either serve or package as a gift. Makes 30–40.
9 Wines to Pair With Chocolate
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good sweet wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
Score: 93 | $43
WS Review: Offers expressive boysenberry and sweet plum flavors that show beautiful fruit purity, with toasted alder and fruitcake spice highlights. Ripe and concentrated on the palate, with chalky minerals, iron and silky tannins providing a lovely frame on the savory end. Drink now through 2030. 268 cases imported. From France.–James Molesworth
ANTOINE GRAILLOT & RAÚL PÉREZ
Mencía Bierzo Encinas 2019
Score: 93 | $33
WS Review: Appealing violet, tarry smoke and spice box notes play on the nose of this expressive red, with flavors of black plum reduction, red licorice, cured tobacco and singed orange peel on the palate. The fresh, lasting finish features fine-grained tannins, which are creamy with light grip. Drink now through 2029. 850 cases made, 112 cases imported. From Spain.–Alison Napjus
Verduno Pelaverga 2021
Score: 90 | $33
WS Review: Perfumed with rose and strawberry aromas, this red is a silky, fine expression of small red berries and flowers. Think of this more as a white wine, or a serious rosé, in terms of weight and profile. Drink now. 1,650 cases made. From Italy. –Bruce Sanderson
Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ca' del Laito Ripasso 2018
Score: 90 | $28
WS Review: A dark, rich Valpolicella, exuding steeped blackberry, date, ashy smoke and fragrant accents of violet, wild sage and warm brown bread. Medium-bodied and creamy, with supple tannins and a touch of coffee liqueur on the finish. Distinctive. Drink now through 2028. 2,000 cases made. From Italy. –A.N.
Tokaji Late Harvest 2020
Score: 92 | $36
WS Review: A bright, lively late-harvest wine that pushes just past off-dry, with a lightly mouthcoating texture and flavors of ripe and juicy yellow peach, candied pink grapefruit peel, blood orange sorbet and aromatic hints of cardamom and elderflower. Furmint, Sárga Muskotály and Zéta. Drink now through 2028. 2,041 cases made, 630 cases imported. From Hungary. –A.N.
QUINTA DO VALLADO
Port LBV 2017
Score: 92 | $30
WS Review: Delivers lots of juicy bramble, licorice root and fruitcake notes that tumble along, with energy from start to finish. Reveals a nice finishing kick of plum cake at the end. Plenty tasty and no rush—a touch of cellaring will coax out more nuances. Drink now through 2028. 1,570 cases made, 1,000 cases imported. From Portugal. –J.M.
Malmsey Madeira 10 Year Old NV (Reviewed 2022)
Score: 91 | $31
WS Review: Shows a mix of sesame, buckwheat, date, green tea and singed hazelnut, with hints of ginger and salted caramel on the sweet, bracing finish. Delicious. Drink now. 100 cases imported. From Portugal.–J.M.
EL MAESTRO SIERRA
Pedro Ximénez Jerez NV (Reviewed 2023)
Score: 91 | $22/375ml
WS Review: Combines tasty date, salted caramel and green tea notes with viscous texture and a flattering sweet edge, creating an ideal entry point to the exotic world of Pedro Ximénez Sherry. Break out the Cabrales. Drink now. From Spain.–J.M.
JORGE ORDOÑEZ & CO.
Málaga No. 1 Selección Especial 2019
Score: 90 | $16/375ml
WS Review: Somewhere between off-dry and a true sweetie, this vibrant dessert wine features expressive flavors of white peach puree, tangerine sorbet, candied ginger and Thai basil buoyed by mouthwatering acidity. Drink now through 2027. 1,000 cases made, 400 cases imported. From Spain. –A.N.