Even though chocolate mendiants are reminiscent of Christmas, I don’t see why we can’t indulge on them throughout the year.
Mendiants translates to “beggar” in the French language. However, there is nothing meager or impoverished about these chocolate discs studded with dried fruits and nuts. They look so elegant in a gift box and on a plate when served after dinner.
The original chocolate mendiants have different toppings to represent the colours of the monastic robes for the four major orders of the Roman Catholic Church – raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnuts for the Augustinians, dried figs for the Franciscans and almonds for the Carmelites
These days, you will find chocolate mendiants with a variety of toppings. That is my favourite bit about them. You can let your creativity and imagination run with the wind and top the chocolate with any fruit, nut, seed, herb in any way you like.
I’ve included a quick guide to tempering chocolate as I personally find that it’s an essential process to making chocolate decorations, chocolates and in this case, chocolate mendiants.
However, if you feel that appearance is not as important or if you want a quick snack, you can make these little treats by melting chocolate and topping them with fruits and nuts.
Tempering Chocolate 101
What is tempered chocolate?
A well-tempered chocolate has a smooth finish, a good sheen and gives a clean and firm snap when you break the chocolate into two.
What does tempering chocolate do? Isn’t it just melting chocolate?
No. When you melt chocolate and leave it to set, it gives you a dull finish, it is a little soft and malleable and it does not give a characteristic snap. Also, the chocolate may have white spots as a result of fat bloom.
Tempering is the process that sets the stage for proper crystalisation of the cocoa butter; it ensures that a large amount of the desirable stables crystals are formed. I won’t go into too much technicality on this subject but in simple terms we want the good crystals in the cocoa butter
How to temper chocolate?
There are a few methods of tempering chocolate: tabling, addition, waterbath etc. Personally, I like the addition method because there is less to clean up.
Tempering chocolate using the adddition method:
1. Chop up your chocolate into small and even pieces so that they will melt evenly.
2. Place about 2/3 of the chopped chocolate over a bain marie of simmering water (low fire). Do ensure that the water in the pot does not touch the bowl of chocolate (if not the chocolate may burn)
3. Using a silicon spatula, stir the chocolate around to prevent hot stops from forming.
4. When the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat. The temperature should not be over 42°C for dark couverture. You can use a digital probe/thermometer as a guide.
5. Start by adding the remaining 1/3 chopped chocolate to the melted chocolate. Stir to incorporate. The warm, melted chocolate should start melting the remaining chocolate pieces and as a result bring down the overall temperature of the chocolate. The final temperature of the chocolate should be 31- 32°C. Use the tempered chocolate immediately for your chocolate decorations etc.
To be absolutely certain that your chocolate is tempered properly, you can spoon a little of the chocolate and spread thinly onto a cold dish to see if it sets immediately. It should also have a nice shiny appearance.
The above temperature mentioned is in reference to dark chocolate couverture. Below is a table for your reference if you are using milk/white chocolate.
|Type of Chocolate||Tempering temperatures|
|Dark chocolate couverture||31-32°C|
|Milk chocolate couverture||30-31°C|
|White chocolate couverture||27-29°C|
Tips for tempering chocolate
*Never melt chocolate directly over a stovetop. Chocolate is very delicate and it burns very easily and doing it over the stovetop has very high margin of error.
*When melting chocolate over a bain marie, ensure that not even a drop of water get into the chocolate or the chocolate will seize and turn grainy. You will be unable to achieve a good tempered chocolate with seized chocolate.
*Try not to overheat chocolate. Chocolate melts very easily, as soon as it melts, take it away from the heat. A rough guide would be not to take the temperature above 41-42°C.
*Keep the bowl of tempered chocolate warm by wrapping it in a tea towel. This is to prevent the chocolate temperature from falling too much (and out of temper) while you work on chocolate decorations or chocolate mendiants.
*If the temperature of the tempered chocolate falls slightly out of the range, you can place the bowl briefly, a few seconds, to warm it up slightly every once in a while to ensure it’s still in temper.
*If you did not temper your chocolate well on your first try, you can start over again using the same chocolate so that there is no wastage.
Recipe: Chocolate mendiants
I got the idea of using rosemary with dark chocolate from Adriano Zumbo, the dark lord of pastry from Sydney. This came in the form of a dark chocolate bar with cranberry, rosemary, sable in time for the Christmas cheer.
It’s still a couple more months before Christmas but I really enjoyed the combination of rosemary with dark chocolate so I incorporated it into these chocolate mendiants which serves terrific tea time snacks!
300g dark couverture chocolate ( I use one with 65% cocoa)
fresh rosemary, leaves only
dried fruits (I used cranberries, apricots and figs)
toasted nuts (I used hazelnuts and cashew nuts)
How about other variations?
White chocolate + almond + dried raspberry
White chocolate + fresh basil + dried strawberry
Milk chocolate + pistachio + golden raisins
1. Line a tray with a silicon mat or baking parchment. This will help you remove the chocolates easily.
2. Prepare your dried fruits and nuts: cut up dried fruits into quarter or any size you prefer, toast up some raw nuts.
3. Temper your chocolate (refer to above if you are new to tempering).
4. Spoon about a heap tablespoon of tempered chocolate onto the tray. Arrange the fruits, nuts, rosemary as you wish before the chocolate sets.
5. Leave about 1 inch gap between the chocolates. Let them set before lifting them up gently with a small palette knife. Serve as a afternoon tea snack or as a petit four after dinner
These can keep at room temperature in a air-tight container for a week. As Singapore is too hot and humid, I chose to chill mine in an air-tight container in the wine chiller (16°C).
*Forgive the photos as the chocolates have droplets of condensation as I photographed them after taking them out from the chiller into a too warm environment.
*a shout out to Jasline at Food is my life: Thanks for the nomination for the Versatile blogger award. Do check out her very cool foodie blog where she writes about the food from her kitchen as well as her travel experiences.