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French Christmastime mendiants

Crunchy, glossy and fragrant treats for Christmas and also always available for after dinner chocolate cravings!

ingredients for about 20 pieces (total cost about 7 € with organic ingredients)
  • 300g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 20 g almonds
  • 20 g hazelnuts
  • 20 g walnuts
  • 20 g pistachios
  • 40 g candied orange peels

These delicious dark chocolate discs, topped with a mixture of dry nuts and candied fruit are traditional French delicacies, originally prepared for the Christmas holidays.

Mendiants used to be decorated with ingredients that recalled the colour of the clothes of the four French monastic orders called “mendicants”, which means beggars (in French “mendiants”), because they had taken a vow of poverty and had adopted a relevant lifestyle. The Franciscans, dressed in gray, were represented by the raisins, the Carmelites, dressed in brown, by hazelnuts, the Dominicans with their white robes, by the blanched almonds and the Augustinians, draped in purple, by dried figs.

Catalans, on the other hand, call the mixture of dried fruit used in these chocolate discs (as well as in other desserts) “músic”, as a reference to the street musicians (músics de carrer), to whom it was probably offered as a treat for animating people.

Well, whatever their name, if we follow three basic rules, we can make them perfect, super tasty, full of energy and eye catching.

First rule: We use whatever nuts we prefer, but we make sure that they are top quality.

To find out what to look for, when buying nuts and how to choose them, where-else? At the DG “bible”, soon available. I just tell you that they should be better bought raw and roasted by us. We roast them to remove their moisture and make them more crunchy, but also to bring out their oils and aromas. Moreover, as far as hazelnuts are concerned, toasting them, helps remove their skin more easily.

Second rule: We temper the chocolate.

Tempering is a technique that helps improve the consistency, the durability and the hardness of the chocolate, making it fondant, glossy and crispy and at the same time allowing it to be held in hand, without melting instantly. If the chocolate is not tempered but simply melted, it acquires a slightly grainy appearance when cooling, it does not melt smoothly and it discolours turning whitish. Moreover, once poured in a mould, it can not easily be unmoulded.

Tempering involves making the chocolate follow a particular temperature curve by raising, lowering and reraising its temperature, in order to crystallize the molecules, giving the desired shine and hardness and allowing it to keep longer.

Third rule: We make our own candied orange peels. See how to make them HERE.

So to make our chocolate mendiants, here’s what we do.

First of all we need to blanch the almonds and pistachios in boiling water for 1 minute in order to easily remove their peel. We peel both, then we spread all the nuts on baking trays and toast at max 170 C (or 140-150 at fan function) for about 10 -13 min, according to their level of moisture. As soon as we take them out of the oven, we let them cool a bit, then we gently rub the hazelnuts between our palms to get rid of their thin peel.

We roughly chop all of the nuts, as well as the candied peels and mix them in a bowl. We set aside.

Then we proceed to the tempering of the chocolate. We cut it in small pieces and we place it to melt over a double boiler (bain marie), filled half way with hot water (water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). After a few seconds we start stirring the chocolate, until it completely melts and reaches 48-50 ° C. Once this temperature has been reached, we immediately immerse the bowl containing the melted chocolate in a cold water bath, stirring with a spatula until we lower the temperature to 27-28° C. Then we return the chocolate to the hot water bain-marie for a few seconds to re-raise the temperature to 31-32 ° C. It should not exceed 32 ° C.

If you don’t have a thermometer, an easy – rough way to temper the chocolate, is to place only 2/3 of it (200g in this case) to melt, then remove the bowl from the bain marie and add the remaining 100 g of chocolate pieces into the already melted chocolate, stirring so that they also melt. We transfer the bowl with the melted chocolate once again over the bain marie, stirring until it warms up again.

When chocolate is re-warmed, we poor a spoonful over a baking sheet covered with parchment, to form discs of around 5-6 cm diameter and sprinkle on top of them a portion of the chopped dry nuts and candied peels mixture. Don’t spoon all of the tempered chocolate at once, as after 3-5 minutes it will set and the nuts will not stick onto it. Better make batches of 4-5 discs each time, top them with the decoration of the dried fruit mixture and then repeat, until you have used all of the chocolate.

We let the chocolate cool completely so that it sets and becomes crispy, then we wrap the mendiants with parchment paper followed by cling film or aluminium foil and store them at a cool and dry place. We can also keep them in the fridge, but the nuts will probably draw moisture and become damp.


Published in DESSERTS