By Monica Trentini
We all crane our necks when the dessert cart goes by at the restaurants. What yummy desserts will they have this time? Usually it is more of the same. They have Pudim, Torta de Limão, Crme de Papaya com Licor de Cassis, and other cakes and pies. If you are at a fancier restaurant, they might have a Maracuj Mousse or a Chocolate Truffle.
When you read my recipes below, you will see that some of these do not call for exact measurements. You will need to experiment to find out what you like best. When I arrived in Brazil, I was surprised to read recipes that called for a full spoonful of something or a shallow plate full of something else. I was so attached to my measuring cups and spoons! My mother is a stickler for exact measurement, and having learned from her, I had to re-think my cooking attitudes.
All of these desserts call for Condensed Milk and some of them call for Crme de Leite. These two ingredients are essential for cooking in Brazil. When I called my Brazilian mother” for information about recipes, she sadly told me she would have to hunt for them. Due to health reasons, she has opted to cook without these ingredients. They are both highly caloric. There is fresh crme de leite that comes in a bottle, with a shorter shelf life and the canned and boxed crme de leite can be stored in your pantry. They are both made with animal fat. Now, there are lower calorie choices at the supermarket (the “light” variety) and vegetable-based crme de leite (Crme Vegetal) is sold as lighter as it does not contain cholesterol, whereas the canned or boxed crme de leite has quite a bit. The vegetable-based crme de leite is made of shortening and “whole powdered milk” (leite em pó integral). This seems very strange to me, but it’s true. In a nutshell, the difference is similar to that of butter and margarine. But the question of how healthy these two are or are not is yours to decide.
Regardless, my Brazilian “mother” (Maria Lucia) was quick to come up with ideas. She claims that Brazilians use these ingredients for everything, even bchamel sauce. I have not found a recipe for this, so we will just have to take her word for it. She thinks that crme de leite is wonderful to make salad dressings. I make sour cream by mixing a can of crme de leite and a container of plain yogurt and use this as a base for my creamy salad dressings. Try mixing some with crumbled Roquefort cheese to make a “blue cheese” style dressing. Delicious!
Maria Lucia also recommended I speak to Maria Antonia, who is a friend of hers who uses both of these ingredients to a fault. Maria Antonia claims that everything she knows everyone else knows and that she is no great chef. Well, she makes pudim in the microwave! That’s a feat. No hassle with the par boiling, and in 12 minutes on high and a few hours in the freezer she has a dessert ready for lunch. She also told me her secret for whipped cream, and she makes many gelatin desserts. She says the fresh crme de leite is much more delicious than the canned. She also says she only uses the canned. Go figure. My article could just be about her, but I will stop here. Note: I made the pudim in the microwave, and as long as you don’t mind eating it off the walls of the microwave, it is delicious. I guess I should have used a much larger pan. Trying a second time, with an improvised large Pyrex bowl with a glass cup in the middle, the recipe worked like a charm. There must be a science to the middle piece.
Crme de leite whips up nicely on its own to make chantilly. Be careful not to over whip it, as the canned variety will turn into butter. We “made” butter by passing and shaking a jar of it when I was teaching third grade at Graded. The kids loved that experiment.
According to Yahoo! Brasil, the crme de leite craze is catching on outside of Brazil too. In 2001, the quantity exported was a little over 271 kilos. In 2002, the number went up to over 65.7 tons! Now, that is a substantial increase! If you bought stock, you are lucky.
If you would like to buy vegetable-based crme de leite, there are many brands to choose from. They would be in the refrigerated section of the market and they come in liter and half liter bottles, or liter sacks. I spoke to two suppliers of vegetable-based crme de leite. At Camargo’s, João Morais (tel.:9762-4918 / 7391-4812) said you can call him to find out where you can purchase Camargo’s brand Crme de Leite. At Crme Jundiai, Paulo said he supplies Wal Mart and Sam’s Club and many bakeries re-sell his crme de leite (including Casablanca near Graded on Giovanni.) Both sang the praises of this type of Crme de Leite. I guess the proof would be in the pudding. Ha. Ha.
Condensed milk is the main ingredient of all the docinhos (little sweets) you get at Brazilian birthday parties. Condensed Milk is the base for doce de leite. If you were to boil an unopened can of it in the pressure cooker for 30 minutes, or just in a regular pan for 4 hours, you would get doce de leite. My brother’s Brazilian girlfriend Marina recommends you make your doce de leite while you cook beans in your pressure cooker. This saves time and energy, she says. If you try this at home, it is at your own risk! I truly do not recommend anyone without experience use a pressure cooker. Someone told me a story about the top hitting the ceiling once. Don’t call me if this happens to you. You were warned. According to my business partner, Ruth Barreiros, if you have a cow at your disposal, fresh doce de leite is the way to go. Just mix 1 kilo of sugar for every 4 liters of fresh cow’s milk and boil ad nauseum, and you’ll have the best doce de leite you have ever tasted. One of my brazilian recipe books (Dona Benta: Comer Bem) recommends placing a small bowl in with the milk as you boil it to make doce de leite. They say this keeps it from boiling over.
Our babysitter’s face lit up when I told her about the article. She said she has the secret recipe for a famous store-bought chocolate pudding. I must say my face lit up when I tasted this pudding. I’ve never touched the store-bought stuff and never will.
Useful Information about Vegetable-Based Crme de Leite (Jundiai or Camargo’s brand) and Canned and Boxed and Fresh Crme de Leite
Will keep 30 days in the refrigerator, at 1C., (Cans and boxes keep until opened.)
May not be frozen,
May be used to make salty and sweet dishes,
As chantilly, may be used to fill or ice cakes, and to add to sweet desserts, or coffee,
Comes ready to add to salty dishes like: quiches, pastas, salad dressings
Great for preparing mousse,
May be prepared with sugar or sweetener,
Does not contain cholesterol, (Canned and boxed crme de leite does contain cholesterol.)
Try to use the whole package at a time. (Place unused portion of cans and boxes in a separate container and save up to 2 days.)
For Chantilly, beat on high for approximately 5 minutes or until peaks are formed. Will not become butter. (Canned and Boxed Crme de Leite does become butter if beaten too much.)
Mixes well with citrus such as lemon, orange and pineapple,
Mixes well with chocolate and gelatin,
If adding flavor to your whipped cream, first whip and then add flavoring towards the end.
On hot days, place the crme de leite and your beaters in the freezer for a few minutes (do not allow to freeze). This will make it whip faster.
1 can of condensed milk
1 can of milk
1/3 C. sugar
Blend condensed milk, milk and eggs. Burn the sugar over a flame in the bottom of the bundt pan. When the sugar is caramel color, and a little cool, pour the mixture from the blender into the pan. Par boil for an hour, or until a knife comes out clean. Refrigerate. Unmold before serving.
Maria Antonia’s Pudim in the Microwave
1 can condensed milk
2 cans of milk
1t. maisena – corn starch (she said a shallow spoonful)
3-4 eggs (3 large or 4 small, she says)
Blend condensed milk, milk, eggs and corn starch. Burn the sugar over a flame in the bottom of a pan. Transfer to microwaveable bundt pan (glass would be my choice) When the sugar has cooled a little, pour the mixture from the blender into the pan. Microwave on high for 12 minutes. Transfer to the freezer or refrigerator to cool. Unmold before serving.
Maria Antonia’s Chantilly
Beat 2 egg whites. Add 4 T. sugar. Beat. Fold in a can of crme de leite.
Maria Antonia’s Gelatin Desserts
Make three or four different types of jello. Cut in squares. Make a fourth color, adding 1 cup boiling water and 1 can crme de leite. Allow to cool a little. Toss with jello squares. Refrigerate.
Cut up an entire pineapple, adding 6 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar. Boil. Add 3 packages pineapple gelatin. Let sit to cool. Mix in a can of crme de leite. Refrigerate.
Lemon Pie (Torta de Limão)
Make a “graham cracker” crust with 1 C. crushed or blended Biscoitos Maria 2T. sugar, and 1/3 C. of butter and line the bottom of the pie plate.
1 can condensed milk
C. lime juice (add more if you prefer)
Pour onto crust.
2 egg whites
2 T. sugar
Beat until peaks form.
Smooth over 1st layer.
Bake until golden on top.
Crme de Papaya
1 can crme de leite
1 can leite condensado
1 mamão papaya
2 leaves of unflavored gelatin melted in C. boiling water (Not a necessary ingredient. Add this if you want a firmer dessert.)
Beat and refrigerate. Sometime we freeze this for an ice-cream type dessert.
This basic recipe can be altered. If you want mousse, replace the crme de leite with 3 or 4 beaten egg whites. Fold them in at the end and refrigerate.
You may replace the mamao with maracuja juice to make Crme de Maracuja or Mousse de Maracuja – (Choose 5 heavy maracujas. Blend with a cup of water and strain to make juice. Reserve some seeds for decoration and to add a crunch), a bottle of leite de coco (coconut milk) to make Crme de Coco or Mousse de Coco, or lime juice to make Crme de Limão or Mousse de Limão. I like to serve these deserts with tea cookies (biscoitos amanteigados). The store bought kind. Really.
Chocolate Truffle (From the makers of Crme Jundiai)
250 g. Crme Jundiai
2 T. Cognac
500 g. Bittersweet Chocolate
On the stove-top, mix the Crme Jundiai and the cognac. Mix until it boils. Turn off the flame and add the chocolate pieces. Mix well until dissolved. Refrigerate overnight. Make small balls and refrigerate them for hour. Roll in powdered chocolate and place back in the refrigerator to dry.
Tatiana’s Famous Chocolate Pudding
1 egg yolk (put through the strainer)
1 liter of milk
1 can of condensed milk
1 can of crme de leite
Corn Starch (Maisena)
Place the egg yolk, the milk, the condensed milk and the chocolate in a pan and mix well. Dissolve 3 T. of cornstarch in some milk and add to the pan. Bring to a boil, always mixing. Add more corn starch as needed to thicken it as you like. Let rest a little. Beat this with a can of crme de leite. Refrigerate before serving.
What is Crme de Leite? Way back when, ladies would churn cream into butter. Crme de leite is that cream, one step before it becomes butter.
What is Leite Condensado? Condensed Milk is Milk with the water content reduced 60% and sugar is added.
Monica Trentini was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and was raised in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro. She lives in São Paulo with her Brazilian husband and two children. She has a cookie business, making and selling baked cookies, cookie dough and festive pizza-size cookies. If you would like more information, or if you have any comments on the article, please contact Monica Trentini at 3739-2599, 8111-5920 or firstname.lastname@example.org “