Monday, September 3, 2012

Brazil's Beignets -the Bolinho de Chuva

Just as you can find variations on baked or grilled flatbread all around the world, from Mexico and its tortillas, to Lebanon's lavash, Italy's pizza and Indian naan, the idea of making a loose dough then dropping small balls of it into hot oil to deep fry can be found in countries and culture here and there on all continents. There's something deeply comforting (and addicting) about these sweet treats that seems to appeal universally to human's appetites.

Almost no one doesn't like a doughnut, America's contribution to this type of food. Canadians, though, have recetnly trumped the Americans and now have become the world's highest per capita consumers of doughnuts. The idea of visiting New Orleans and not eating a beignet is scandalous to many , and elsewhere in the American south you'll run across the charmingly-named hush puppy. The Netherlands has its oliebollen, and in Belgian Wallonie they've got croustillons. Quebec has chosen to call their version (rather rudely) pets de nonne. Presumably because the little balls are light and sweetly fragrant, Quebecs seem to think these sweets deserve to be called "nun's farts".

Brazilians too love these sweet treats, and have christened their version bolinho de chuva which means little cakes of rain. Bolinhos de chuva, dusted with plain or cinnamon sugar are a favorite accompaniment to late afternoon coffee in Brazil, and are considered to be the standard version. Numerous variations do exist, even including some savory recipes, though these are still massively outnumbered by recipes for sweet bolinhos. Because bolinhos are so light and airy, they are sometimes stuffed with sweet whipping cream or doce de leite. Brazilian cooks seem to have oringally inherited their recipe for bolinho de chuva from Portuguese sweet kitchens, where bolinhos de chuva are also found.

For many Brazilians there is a deep nostalgic connection between bolinhos de chuva and a long-running childrens' TV show called Sítio do Picapau Amarelo (The Yellow Woodpecker's Farm). The show was based on a classic book of Brazilian childrens' literature of the same name, written by Monteiro Lobato. One of the show's most-loved characters was kindly Tia Nastácia (Aunt Nastácia) who was always making bolinhos de chuva for rag doll Emília and the show's other characters.

Next post, we'll publish a typically Brazilian recipe for bolinhos de chuva.


  1. Yes .. I am 42 years old and spent my childhood watching Sítio do Pica-pau Amarelo... And remember that on rainy days, late afternoon, in time for the show, my mother made dumplings rain ... and today I do for my son, but is now watching Transformers! :-)

    I just know his blog, he got up at 8:30 AM and still could not get out of it ... Everything I read is very familiar, and you write so splendid!

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