Sugar applications of Brazil: bringing traditional recipes closer to home
As we continue our journey across the world of sugar applications, we land in sunny Brazil. Brazil is the world’s largest sugar producer, accounting for 23% of global sugar production, and is also the world’s top exporter of sugar cane, most of which is grown in the state of São Paulo.
A vibrant, beautiful country, known for its colourful carnivals and tasty street food markets, Brazil is a place that holidaymakers return to time and time again. With Carnival in Rio de Janeiro set to kick off tomorrow, we explore some of the nation’s most celebrated sugar applications.
The culture in cocktails
Due to the nation’s celebratory lifestyle, traditional Brazilian food and beverages are renowned for bringing the community together. In the spirit of these festivities, cocktails have been part of the culture for over one hundred years and are still welcomed in formal and social events today.
Most famous is the caipirinha, which is Brazil’s national drink. With its light, zesty and refreshing taste, the drink is prepared by pouring crushed ice and muddling wedges of fresh lime and demerara sugar to create the crunchy textured finish, before adding Cachaça. The result is a semi-tropical cocktail that is often drank to cool down from the hot sun; sometimes, there is nothing better than a simple chilled beverage and the caipirinha has a light flavour that is perfect for just that.
Sugar cane is the world’s largest crop by production quantity, with 1.8 billion tonnes grown every year alone. Cachaça, one of a caipirinha’s four core ingredients, is a liquor made from fermented sugar cane juice, which further demonstrates the natural versatility of this raw material. Holding a similar taste to rum, Cachaça is only made and distilled in Brazil, making this the preferred ingredient. Rum can still be used as an alternative, but is distilled from molasses, which takes the authenticity away from the traditional caipirinha.
The love of Brazilian desserts
The street food markets in Brazil are filled with an array of sweet and savoury delights. Brigadeiro, also known as ‘Brazilian fudge balls’, is the most popular dessert in Brazil – it is sold on market stalls, purchased from local bakeries and indulged in cafes and bars. Traditionally made from condensed milk, chocolate powder, eggs and butter, the ingredients are individually hand rolled, moulded, and shaped like a bonbon before being covered in chocolate sprinkles.
It is the base ingredient, condensed milk, that makes this dessert rich and sweet. Of course, condensed milk is milk that has had water removed and white sugar – in traditional Brazilian’s case, white granulated cane sugar – added to preserve it and keep it lasting longer. And these natural preservative qualities enable the brigadeiro to remain fresher for longer too.
Turning peanuts into candy
Pé-de-Moleque is a classic Brazilian treat. Packed full of peanuts, this crispy, yet chewy, traditional candy results in soft, irregular-shaped sweets, typically of a dark brown colour.
The shared candy is prepared by mixing roasted, peeled peanuts with melted sugar, and it comes in light and dark varieties. For pé-de-moleque, the dark variety contains soft brown sugar, made from molasses, which offers a much more robust, bittersweet flavour.
By melting the sugar, this creates a caramel, which binds the peanuts together. Any concern of this treat being too brittle, pé-de-Moleque is pleasantly sweet, soft and buttery due to the incorporation of peanut oil.
The flavour in savoury
Savoury Brazilian cuisines offer a variety of punchy flavours with the use of fruits and spices included. Orange and Muscovado chicken is a favoured dish, with zesty, fragrant tones mixed with thyme, garlic and dark cane muscovado sugar. This creates a fabulous marinade of sweet and savoury flavours for chicken.
While it has preserving attributes, the application of dark cane muscovado sugar in sauces is not typically for preserving, unlike other sugar products. Instead, it is intended to develop rich, deeper and more complex flavour profiles. It can do this because it is a partially refined sugar that naturally contains high molasses content. Of course, as it can only be produced from sugar cane, and Brazil is the world’s largest sugar cane producer, it is a sugar product that is used in Brazilian cuisine. This sugar in particular holds antioxidant properties which help fight the cell damage which contributes to aging.
Brazilian street food insight
Traditional Brazilian cuisine is lively and eclectic, just like the nation’s carnival, street food markets and culture. As Brazilian food draws its flavours from a vast fusion of influences, the sugar applications – though typically derived from sugar cane – have created a variety of blends which is reflected in the flavours to be found in its food and drink.
With this discovery of rich and flamboyant Brazilian cuisines, this blog has offered insights into some of the most popular sugar applications in Brazilian food and beverages. Rich desserts, refreshingly sweet cocktails and rich savoury sauces. In our next ‘across the globe’ blog in this series, we will be flying across the Pacific to Japan where we will explore the traditional uses of sugar in Japanese food and beverages.
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