Mendiants au chocolat are a traditional southern French Christmas-time confection of chocolate discs topped with nuts and dry fruits. Mendiants - mendicants or beggars in English - refers to the four monastic orders in the Church: Dominican, Franciscan, Carmelite, and Augustinian. Each order is represented by a specific topping based on the colour of their robes: hazelnuts for the Augustinians, raisins for the Dominicans, figs for the Franciscans, and almonds for the Carmelites.
I really love this romantic way of commemorating the orders and thinking about them at an important time of the year for Catholics and others alike. I equally love the elegant simplicity of mendiants au chocolat. And the versatility of toppings that creates a variety of textures and flavours on the tongue. Like a party that lasts all night... and if you know me, you know how much I love a party!
I make them during the holiday season as one of my edible homemade gifts when I go to parties or have friends over, but I also make them throughout the year. I think they make a really lovely gift at any time. Get creative with toppings: nuts, dried fruits, bits of biscuits or pretzel sticks, fleur de sel or other coarse natural salt, candied flowers, candied ginger or other fruits, fruit peels, pumpkin seeds...
While you don't need to stick to the traditional toppings, be mindful to keep the mendiants bite sized and don't crowd the small discs of chocolate. You want the chocolate to come through as much as the toppings. So use the best quality milk or dark chocolate you can find, and a few excellent toppings.
Mendiants au Chocolat
makes: ~ 3 dozen
- 16 oz. Callebaut 60% or other top quality dark chocolate - not couverture (I use Valrhona or Callebaut, but Scharffenberger or Ghirardelli will do)
- nuts (raw or roasted): cashews, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans...
- dried fruits
- candied ginger, orange peel, or candied flowers
- dried coconut flakes
- dried coconut flakes
- dried herbs: rosemary, mint
- salt: fleur de sel, pink Himalayan, black Cyprus sea salt flakes
- Line a few baking trays or other flat work surface with parchment paper.
- Completely melt the chocolate in a double boiler (temper if you wish, but it's not necessary).
- Using a 1/2 tsp. measure, drop the molten chocolate onto the prepared parchment paper. It will naturally form a circle - resist the temptation to spread the chocolate into a circle, let it form naturally.
- Top with a combination of toppings and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate till the chocolate is hardened.
- Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.