Mallomars Or Nha Benta?
Claudia Turl, the owner of Maria Torta. Leticia Schwartz/JW
Brazil’s version of mallomars is something you can make at home.
Maria Torta is a grandmotherly bakery in Teresópolis, a mountain city an hour north of Rio de Janeiro. The bakery opened in the early 1980s, and has been serving Brazilian baked goods for many generations. I grew up going to Teresópolis on the weekends and also during the months of December and January, when school is off in Brazil — just in time for Chanukah!
Back then, there was no Belgium chocolate, or Valhrona, or any other imported chocolate brands for that matter. At the time, Maria Torta was the only game in town, and boy it was good.
Claudia Turl, the owner, has always had a special touch for all things sweet. There may have been some savory fare, but all I remember was the tempting desserts. The assortment was huge: brigadeiros, mousses, puddings … and then there was Nha Benta, the Brazilian Mallomar. Every year at Chanukah, my mother would buy a box of Nha Benta for the house. It disappeared before celebrations began.
Nha Benta is easy to love and easy to make. On a trip to Teresópolis, I asked Claudia to take photos of the process, and without reading the recipe at all — just by looking at the photos — you can tell how easy it is to reproduce this iconic Brazilian treat. Grab a sweet cracker (Claudia uses Nestle), pipe Italian meringue on top and dip into chocolate glaze. That’s it! Done!
When adapting the recipe in my own kitchen, I searched for a comparable cookie and came up with Nila Wafers as I like their small size, though you can certainly use another kind of cookie. Once I made the recipe using Maria cookies from Goya, and while the circle base it a lot larger, it also made a very authentic Nha Benta.
A long time has passed. A lot has changed in Teresópolis. A lot has changed in Brazil. But Maria Torta is still there. The memories of this bakery are forever in my mind, and Nha Bentas are still helping me celebrate Chanukah.