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I have an unofficial list of all the "American" things I want to experience that I never grew up with. One of them was a proper Halloween. Thanks to the Halloween-happy Rick Koster and his wife Eileen, when I moved to New London, I discovered the fun of dressing up as a grown-up. News people that we are, we inevitably gravitated toward unorthodox costumes borrowed from major news headlines from that year.
Then, one year, I got to play hostess and hand out candy for trick-or-treaters. I'm pretty sure I frightened some of the children by rushing to the door and gleefully dumping massive amounts of candy into their bags.
Commercial candy? I have some favorites. 100 Grand reminds me of this candy bar Golpe in Chile, where I first honed my sweet teeth. I'll never say no to any candy with caramel in it. And I recently discovered Baby Ruths. I don't know what took so long.
But none of them compare to homemade candy. I know the days of making homemade candy for trick-of-treaters is gone, but I yearn for them. How awesome would it be to get a bag full of candy someone else has slaved over to make and wrap, just for me?
Because while I'll give many recipes a try in the kitchen, I've always been petrified of making candy myself. I shy away from any recipe that calls for a candy thermometer. I've had too many disastrous caramel fails to want to waste any more money on ingredients that will inevitably end up burnt on my stovetop.
Thank God for the Brazilians. They came up with an amazing piece of candy that's basically foolproof, that seems all fancy and difficult to make but in reality is just some good old condensed milk, cooked down with some cocoa powder and honey.
The result are these things called brigadeiros, chewy and caramely and chocolatey, and surely anything that sticks to your teeth so couldn't possibly be good for you, and yet a little treat after dinner can't be the end of the world, can it?
The recipe I use is one an old Brazilian friend wrote up for me. We met in middle school, when her English still wasn't perfect and she spelled the word "medium" with an "a," so that her recipe called for "honey (1 mediam spoon)." I love the way Samaine worded the instructions in her recipe, so much so that I've kept the original wording in my recipe book despite the notations I've made to it. She calls for stirring the condensed milk "until it is very creamy and it hurts your arm to stir b/c its like a hard cream, like the consistency of honey. Add the honey and continue stirring until you think the honey is everywhere."
I've lost track of her over the years, but I hear her middle school voice on the page every time I re-read the recipe.
Adapted from Samaine's recipe
1 tablespoon butter
1 14-ounce can condensed milk
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
Mini cupcake liners, optional
Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat.
Stir in the condensed milk. Add the cocoa powder and continue to stir.
Raise the heat to medium-high and continue to stir to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. Stir until the mixture thickens.
Add the honey and stir to incorporate.
Butter a baking pan and pour the mixture into it. Let cool for about an hour.
Butter your hands and roll the mixture into small balls about the size of gumballs. Roll them in the chocolate sprinkles to coat. If you're getting all fancy, you can put the brigadeiros in mini cupcake liners for presentation. (I always skip this step because I know the brigadeiros are going to be gone in two seconds anyway.)
As Samaine wrote in her recipe: "Last but not least this step is very important: have no mercy, just eat!"