According to the Brazilian magazine VIP, 500,000 was the number of Brazilians who watched last year’s Super Bowl. In a country that breathes futebol, those numbers are huge. My interest in football and the Super Bowl continues to be limited to gathering with friends with comfort/party food and beer, watching the best commercials and seeing the most attractive couple on the planet (Tom Brady & Giselle Bündchen).
Also a good excuse to make these chocolate fudge-y Brazilian squares that are packed with pieces of plain tea-style cookies and rolled in sugar. They are easy to eat in front of the TV and also make for a great edible gift.
Palha italiana (“Italian straw”) was supposedly introduced to Brazilian cuisine by Italian immigrants as an adaptation of the traditional salame ao cioccolato. They are traditionally cut like bars, in bigger squares, but I think it is too much sweetness for that size, so I cut mine in bite-size pieces, but do as you please! I also left some in “rustic style” in a jar, like my grandma used to do, for old times’ sake. My grandma Neide used to give us jars filled with these babies when we left her place to our sad 7h drive back home to São Paulo, so that we could eat our sorrows away in the car. She was a wise woman!
PALHA ITALIANA (Brazilian fudge and broken tea cookies squares)
Yields: 80-100 squares, depending how big or small you cut them
3 cans of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1 large package of plain tea cookies (about 15 ounces), broken into medium size pieces
granulated sugar to coat
Combine ingredients in a large pot over medium/low heat and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture starts thickening slightly (you should see a few bubbles popping and the bottom of the pan when stirring), turn off the heat let it rest for about 5 minutes.
Stir half of the cookies into the chocolate mixture and combine. Stir in the rest of the cookies and spread the dessert onto a buttered rimmed baking sheet, flattening on top with a spatula.
Refrigerate for 2h, cut into squares and roll them into sugar.
In Brazil we use bolacha maizena, a plain cookie that is great for dipping in milk and tea. The best substitute is Maria cookies, but if you can’t find them, look for plain tea-style cookies. I found these Italian milk & honey cookies at Trader Joe’s that have the perfect consistency for making palha italiana. The slight flavors of honey did not interfere in the result at all.
If you are not making for a party or to gift in jars and want a smaller portion, use 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and about 8 ounces of cookies).