Every girl from Bahia has a saint, she has charms, she has a way that God gives. Gilberto Gil forgot to say that it also has the sweetness that accompanies the tradition of cocada, student and rice cakes, mugunzá and quindim de iaiá, the one with plenty of fresh, coarsely grated coconut.
baianas of savior or by option, the sweets Lisiane Arouca 43, behind the award-winning desserts Origin as well as the ori of omi and from the minibar Gem; Fabiane Araújo Teixeira 41, from opera house and gives Tropic Chocolates; and Katrin Bassi 34, owner of desserts, breads and ice cream at the Mango develop works that perpetuate the cultural heritage without ceasing to give eloquence to their own voice.
From back to front, Katrin, or Kafe as she is more commonly called, confesses: “When I arrived in Brazil, I found everything very, very sweet and with that consistency of condensed milk. I didn’t like it very much”. It is not surprising, after all, the chef from Ravensburg, southern Germany, grew up watching her father produce kirsch, a cherry-based distillate that inspired her passion and several versions of black forest.
On the other hand, his fascination with fruits is evident: “The coolest thing in Bahia – and in Brazil – is the fruits. There’s so much variety that I still go to the fair and things come up that I’ve never tried!”. The enthusiasm meant that, in 2019, the newly opened Manga only had fruity desserts.
“Gradually, even to please, I included caramel, dulce de leche, popcorn…”, she says that, for cocada, the first delicacy presented by Dante (today her husband, but at the time a colleague in the DOM brigade), felt an instant rapture.
“Transformation is not my job, because it’s very typical, it’s from the culture, but my sweets, of course, have a German accent. Naturally, I like to combine the fruits here with milk, cream, yogurt and cheeses with different degrees of fat and acidity”, notes Kafe.
With this base, it produces desserts such as Jasmim Manga (tagliatelle and green mango foam, jasmine ice cream, lemon balm crumble and mango sorbet), Uruçu Beehive and Cacau (cocoa mousse, ganache with coffee, nibs and cocoa honey), as well as the most acclaimed popsicles in Bahia.
Speaking of them, colleague Fabi is a fan: “Oh, the cashew one is incredible, the peanut, caramel and milk chocolate one is not even mentioned…”. Of course, when things go chocolatey, it speaks especially to the heart of the businesswoman and chocolate maker.
“I was disillusioned with the job market and as I really liked gastronomy and wine and my travels were always based on that, I decided to go to São Paulo to take a course in pastry with Diego Lozano and I left completely chocoholic”, she reveals.
That’s how the opera house in 2015.
“Although we are the children of cocoa and we are close to the Ilhéus region, Salvador is hot and humid, it has a lot of low quality product and people still don’t know how to differentiate. It’s very challenging to make chocolate here,” she explains – and doesn’t moan – the expert on the subject.
For her bean to bar chocolate shop, Fabiane mined cocoa suppliers. Among them, Edu Cacau (or Eduardo Melo), Lucas Arléo and João Tavares, who send almonds to the few and the good, such as über chef Alain Ducasse.
“We make our own chocolate from almond to bar. Our labels range from 36% to 70% cocoa, are healthy and sustainable. From seeds to roasted nibs, passing through the stone mill, each bar takes at least 72 hours to prepare.”
The hard work has paid off: popcorn bonbons and ice cream with chocolate itself have become an object of desire in the Bahian capital. So much so that, before the end of the year, its urban factory will be converted into an open-door studio, where, in addition to observing the process, consumers will be able to buy chocolates.
“Today there are four labels, but the idea is to have a more creative line. Maybe inspired by my favorite desserts, like chocolate mousse and ambrosia.”
Oops, this is also the favorite of another colleague, Lisiane. “My mother didn’t make anything tasty and since everyone was chubby at home and she had diabetes, she avoided making sweets. Luckily, when I was 8 years old, my grandmother Marieta came to live with us and introduced more affectionate foods, such as ambrosia”, she gets emotional.
“For grandma it was ‘dulce de leche’, it had fewer eggs than the traditional one, so it really had that caramelized milk taste”, he guarantees. With only three ingredients (milk, sugar and only yolk “so you don’t spend all the egg”), it was the first sweetness the girl learned, it’s the only one she prepares for any and all family parties and the one that Dona pays homage to today. Marieta, Omí’s most requested dessert.
Admittedly “crazy about sugar since forever”, Lisi resorted to the input just over a decade ago. “My first husband was a football player, but he got injured and had to stop playing. We were both unemployed, without any income, with two small girls. As I have always made a lot of cake with the recipes from my aunts in Ilhéus, from my grandmother, from the nannies of my friends, I decided to bake my cakes in order to live”.
More than just surviving, creating cakes and party sweets combined her training at the Fine Arts College, not yet practiced, her talent for crafts, drawing and sculpture and the possibility of bringing joy to people through what she most liked to eat.
No, it wasn’t from then on that the full-time baker lived happily ever after, but that’s when she discovered a trade.
He went through a divorce and conquered a new passion (the chef Fabrício Lemos) because of him. It was also her fault that she attended the first gastronomy class, professionalized her production with the help of new colleagues and became Salvador’s most sought-after wedding traveller.
“It made me feel very well, because it wasn’t just food, it was art. Today, after baking so much cake, using so much fondant and doing so many gastronomic fairs, I am able to take some of Bahian cuisine to the rest of the country and that makes me even happier,” she says.
Since 2016, alongside her husband at Origin, Lisiane stopped being a boleira without giving up “the taste of a girl raised in Amargosa”, in the interior of Bahia. “Fruits from childhood like umbu, cajá and licuri, affective flavors that bring emotion, culturally rich sweets that I know how to make will never leave me” and these are the sweet notes that end the experience at the award-winning restaurant.
“In a tasting menu, when you get to dessert, everyone is already satisfied, but you have to get to the end, right? That’s why I look for balance in the composition and contrasts, but without disguising that Brazilian sweets are more sugary, without betraying my essence”, evaluates the baker, who continues to research ingredients and is increasingly daring.
“I think the Brazilian confectionery shop is the best because you can see a culture. Without detracting from the merits of the French patisserie, it had to be more valued in the midst of gastronomy. It’s time to forget a little that what comes from outside is more chic, beautiful and delicious and remember more of the Northeast”, believes Lisiane.
Without wanting to and without the intention of becoming a sociologist, she evokes Gilberto Freyre, the most recognized sociologist from Pernambuco in the country. “This indirect influence of sugar in the sense of sweetening manners, gestures, words, (…) should not make us forget its direct influence, which was on food, on the kitchen, on the Portuguese traditions of cake and sweets”.
The humanist’s observation reflects, in a way, the Bahian essence, the northeastern soul, sweet in style and flavors.
After all, if our fruits are more sugary than in most parts of the planet, it’s only natural that sweets are too, right?
If they are fleshy, succulent, often milky, it is to be deduced that here you can appreciate the creamy sweetness, the texture of condensed milk. It is inevitable that you will die of love for sweets, be it a cocada, a pudding or a brigadeiro. It is relevant that Bahia – and fortunately the whole country – has exponents such as Kafe, Fabi and Lisi.
Source: CNN Brasil