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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Spotlight on My Brigadeiro: A Brazilian Bakery in the Upper Valley

The bakery, which began with a focus on Brazilian sweets, has expanded to include food with European and American influences.

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What started in 2012 as a small business owned by Paula Fernandes — a Brazilian immigrant — is now a successful bakery central to Hanover called My Brigadeiro. The bakery’s handcrafted and organic products include 35 flavors of brigadeiros, plus a wide variety of authentic Brazilian pastries and savory snacks with European and American flair. According to their website, the store was created from Fernandes’s passion for “cooking, family, friends, and entertaining them with delicious treats.”

Brigadeiros are Brazilian desserts — they are similar to chocolate truffles but have a unique, smooth texture and a rich chocolate flavor. According to online recipes, brigadeiros involve mixing condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter, and then rolling the mixture into small, bite-sized balls. These balls are then coated in sprinkles or chocolate.

For many students, My Brigadeiro is a refuge for sweets in Hanover. Jaein Chung ’27 buys birthday cakes from My Brigadeiro, and Rabia Saikhu ’27 sometimes goes to the bakery after class for a treat.

This bakery is not just valued for its sweet and savory treats, but also serves as a space where members of the Hanover community come together to explore Brazilian cuisine within the Upper Valley. 

“My first experience with My Brigadeiro was when my faculty advisor, Brazilian professor Carlos Cortez Minchillo, brought coxinhas and brigadeiros for our first meeting together,” Chung said. “Both cuisines were amazing, and hearing about how they are widely enjoyed in Brazil added to the experience.”

Students also discussed how the store helps fill a demand for different types of cuisine in Hanover. 

“As an international student, I think the store is very important for the diversity in Hanover,” Chung explained. “It’s amazing that students from around the world are able to taste Brazil’s national sweets and explore new food from a different culture.”

Saikhu, a frequenter of My Brigadeiro, affirmed this statement.

“I definitely think this store is important for the diversity of Hanover,” Saikhu said. “There’s a pretty significant amount of Brazilian students here, and although the food may be different from actual homemade Brazilian cuisine, its presence could still be a comfort for many.”

Ezura Fanning has been working at the bakery for six years and currently serves as the head baker. She defined her experience as interesting and enjoyable, but most of all, she highlighted the strong bonds she has in the working environment, from her co-workers to Fernandes herself.

“I love my co-workers. They pretty much have all become my really good friends,” Fanning said. “[Fernandes] is probably one of the best bosses I’ve actually had … She cares more about you as a person, instead of just trying to get employees in and get her hours and her work done.”

Fanning also described the team’s active participation in curating the menu as one of the highlights of the work. 

“It is actually really great in the kitchen, where the owner gives us creative freedom, so we kind of get to test pretty much a mix of American foods and Brazilian foods,” she said.

Part of this cultural fusion comes from the diversity of the backgrounds of the employees at My Brigadeiro.

“We do have multiple bakers of different ethnicities,” Fanning explained. “So we have Paula [Fernandes], who’s Brazilian, and then we also have Adrian, her husband, who’s actually Argentinian. Then there’s me, who is American. And between the combination of all of us, we’ve really tried to bring a nice big [mix] of food in the shop.” 

For Julia Bonzanini ’21, who is Brazilian, the cultural fusion of the cuisine at My Brigadeiro has both pros and cons.

“As a Brazilian, it is obvious that the store and products are targeted to an American public, although it did get better when they moved to their current location and started offering more Brazilian food, such as pão de queijo,” Bonzanini said. “[My Brigadeiro] is a good way to showcase some of our food to people from other countries.”

According to Fanning, one of the biggest challenges and goals of My Brigadeiro is to be a place where everyone can dine.

“A lot of people want vegan stuff. A lot of people want dairy-free stuff,” Fanning said. “That has probably been one of the bigger challenges that I’ve actually faced here — trying to accommodate some of the customers and make specialty items that work for everybody.” 

My Brigadeiro is a strong example of the crucial role food plays in bridging the gap between diverse cultures. Food can serve as a universal language that transcends borders and strengthens bonds between the different communities within Hanover.

“[My Brigadeiro] exposes those who are unfamiliar with Brazilian culture to a delicious opportunity to learn more and gain different perspectives,” Saikhu said.