cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Brigadeiro Army

Brazilian Truffles in Cake Form

How much do you think a brigadeiro cake costs? one of H's crazy aunts asked me last weekend. I don't know, I replied, 50 reais? I don't buy cakes at bakeries so i really don't know, but this being Brazil where everything is overpriced probably a little steap. R$50? she wrinkled her nose in a slight disappointment. Twenty minutes later i learned that that she was actually asking how much a brigadeiro cake would cost me to make. My Portuguese is still in toddler form. Ahhh, a cake order. Our first cake order in Brazil, hot dog. For how many, and when? Next saturday, she replied, for seventy people. Seventy? Oh boy I'm in trouble.

A brigadeiro is a small squishy condensed-milk based chocolate truffle covered in sprinkles. So a brigadeiro cake would be some type of cake covered in a squishy condensed-milk based chocolate coating topped off with sprinkles. Easy enough, i can do that. The first time i made brigadeiro truffles was about two years ago, and happens to be posted here on this exact blog. But a cake for seventy people...foreget it. I'll spread upward but not out; sheet cakes horrify me. Yep, can't do it. Large rounds or squared, tiered if they must be are the only type of large cakes i'll do. Plus, i don't even own a bowl yet so what makes you think i have a sheet cake pan. As a snob, the only answer to cake for large parties is cupcakes. So seventy cupcakes and a large cake to cut into and adorn with candles. Let's do it.

The cakes were done up on friday, which was also a Brazil game, so the plan was to finish baking everything before it started at 11am. One cupcake pan and three boiling pots for mixing and we did it; seventy cupcakes and a three lawyer round all before the start of the game. As this is Brazil, H came home to watch the game...2 hour work day. His excuse was that we (we actually did) had to go to the dentist right after the game. My first dentist visit in Brazil...we can talk about that later. Unfortunately, brazil tied with the colonizers. But that's ok. We had homemade pizza for lunch and a lovely trip to the dentist to follow it.

The brigadeiro army of cakes was for the birthday party of a 13 year old cousin, last weekend was the birthday party of a 7 year old cousin. Not sure yet whose birthday party is next weekend. This family is way too big. Birthday party every week. I have never made this many cakes at the same time before, not even for my graduation party a year ago. My birthday is in about two weeks... i think i will make ice cream instead.

The brigadeiro cake topping consumed four cans of condensed milk. That's a lot of caramel. The cakes are chocolate truffle cakes; meaning that they contain both actual chocolate as well as cocoa powder. Brigadeiros are about as famous as the pão de queijo is in Brazil; traditionally brigadeiro is a birthday party staple, but they can be found pretty much year round at any bakery. Or, you can spend a few pennies and make your own. Brigadeiro truffles are usually rolled into balls and then covered in chocolate sprinkles, but there is nothing wrong with simply eating it on a spoon.

Chocolate Truffle Cake (makes one dozen)
Ingredients: 2 cup flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 2/3 cup milk, 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Method: Mix together the dry ingredients. In a seperate bowl, whip the butter, eggs and sugar. Add the dry mixture and milk alternately to the wets. Pour in muffin cups and bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until done.


Ingredients: 1 can condensed milk, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tbsp butter

method: Mix all ingredients together in a pan and bring to a boil over low heat stirring constantly. Unlike in my last post where i suggested to cook the brigadeiro for 15 to 20 minutes, the number has dropped to 5, somehow. Remove from heat and stir briskly. Allow to cool for about five minutes and and then top and cupcakes or cake and top with sprinkles immediately.

The awestruck look on all the faces of my new little cousins' was enough to justify the entire day spent smothering brigadeiro on the top of seventy little cakes. Cupcakes aren't big yet in Brazil, in fact there are many who have never had a cupcake. Today we helped to fix that even if only for a few. When the kids crowded around the table H turned to me and said, now you've won the family. I replied, I thought i already did that? He, well now you have all the kids on your side.

After cake we all sat down to watch the U.S.'s last game in the world cup this year. Even though i was the only American in the room, there were no Ghana supporters. There's an American in the family now, therefore the U.S. is now ours too. The amazing thing with Brazilian families is that there is no such thing as familiar levels. It doesn't matter whether you're a first cousin, the son of a third cousin twice removed, or the foreign wife of a nephew, family is family, and here, family is everything.

a bientot

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Photography Website


I have been working on my photography website with my web designer/developer (my sister) remotely for over a year. There's a lot of work behind what makes a website a website; a blog is easy, it's a template that's already there. A website is a bit trickier, it's built from a white page. No way in hell could i do it on my own, but having 5 sisters and brothers has it's perks; like everyone says it's good to have a doctor or lawyer in the family, well i like having a web designer and painter in mine.

As of now, the site has three galleries; food, travel and life and will be updated periodically. Soon a fourth gallery of weddings will be added. If you're outside of the US like me, give it about a minute to load as the server is stateside. I can't tell you how excited we are about this, and if you like the design and style, and want to hire a web designer and builder who can work for you completely remotely, contact my designer, Megan Elisabeth by visiting her portfolio.

Here it is!!!!!!

One more photography note, we forgot to mention on our birthday that we were interviewed on the food photography site Great Food Photos owned and operated by photographer and blogger Donny Tsang. Check it out, it's full of great photos (there are other photographers interviewed, such as Aran Goyoaga) and wordy interviews.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Salty's Third Birthday

a look back

I can't believe it's been three years. I could have sworn it's been ten. Has your birthday ever snuck up on you? Has your spell check ever tried to tell you that snuck is not a word? Yesterday, i was sitting here in my chair not wanting to work like every other human on a monday morning, and i realized suddenly that the following day was my blog anniversary. How could i have forgotten? Two years ago my one year anniversary celebration was planned for over a week! Invitations were sent, reservations were made, cakes were baked and a tiny bar in Paris, France, was rented out. And now, two years later, three years from the beginning of it all, i let it sneak up on me. I'm not sure if it is coincidence or not that my life started at the same time Salty did. no no, it is true, my life started three years ago and i have lived a whirlwind lifetime within that margin. Three years ago we didn't know what we wanted and didn't know what we were doing. We've figured out a few of those things as best we can within the past few years, and have a passport full of stamps, a diploma, a job resume, a marriage license, a permanent visa, a house, a pot of sunflowers and an aging blog to prove it. In three years our life and our blog has been through an awful lot. Salty's fault.

Aside from my impulsive live today as if dying tomorrow personal life outside of blogging, three years has shown a tremendous growth on my blogging abilities, well perhaps my writing is suffering (i'm not as cheeky as i used to be) but my photography has gotten a hell of a lot better. It's almost creepy to have your progress and ability in your work cataloged weekly on a blog. I look back at the old posts and my nose does that embarrassed wrinkle; i took that photo? There is nothing in the world that can prove more the notion of progress through practice than the progression of a photo portfolio (i am not being paid for this article so i can state absolutes). The thing with photography is that you can only teach yourself, and you can only teach yourself through interest, passion and practice. Very few are ever born to do anything, and i certainly was not born to photograph. But in three years i've grown to love it as if it is who i am. Plainly put, i am excited for what i will put out look after the next three years of practice as i have come to the conclusion that we can only get better.

Some before and after shots in commemoration of three years? Yes i think so. Before is on the left, after is on the right.

I recall saying in high school photography class that i never wanted and never would be a photographer. There's no money, too risky, you may go through all the trouble and nothing will come out of it other than teaching photography in a dank high school dark room (desculpe, yes i had a bit of resentment for the photography teacher...hasn't evaporated after five years?). But now, as strange as life has it, as strange as learning French in order to live my life in France and ending up in Brazil struggling to learn Portuguese is, I of course want to be a photographer. Go figure, nothing is ever as we want it to be.

Today is Salty's birthday; haven't gone grocery shopping in a eggs, no planning. However, today is also the first game Brazil plays in the World Cup so it is just slight of a national holiday. Workers get the time off to race home and catch the game. Yes it's true. H is coming home early, we're going to a party to watch the game, and in the back of my mind i will be dedicating the celebration to Salty, for the fact that i'm here, doing what i'm doing, thinking what i'm thinking, and feeling what i'm feeling. Life changed with the Salty. Happy birthday buddy, we may have slowed down a bit, but we are still here more alive than ever.

a bientot