December, with its holidays and end of the year buzz, asks so much of us, and yet slow and easy is the call of the season. So if you are looking for a holiday treat that answers that call for ease, mendiants are that. It’s as simple as melt, spoon, top.
A Christmas tradition in France, mendiants are chocolate disks topped with fruit and nuts. Each of the toppings refers to the color of the robes worn by the four monastic, or mendicant, orders, and thus the name. Apparently raisins stand for the Augustinians, hazelnut for the Carmelites, dried fig for the Franciscans, and almond for the Dominicans.
With prayers for special dispensation, I expanded the color and the flavor spectrum, playing with toppings like dried apricots, cherries and ginger, fresh pomegranate nibs, toasted pecans and pumpkin seeds, rose petals and grated orange peel to boost the Ayurvedic taste balance and seasonal hue.
Tastes for the season are gently pungent, citrus-y sour, and of course nourishing sweet. Spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, along with grated orange or lemon peel balance the chocolate well in late autumn/winter.
If you are in the southern hemisphere, these are a great treat for summer too, because they are light. Mint, pomegranate and rose petals are toppings that offer a cooling energy along with that holiday color.
*Learn how to make everything sweet, easy, healthy and delicious with the science of the six tastes in my upcoming training in Ayurvedic Nutrition. Become a coach, a nutrtional therapist, an Ayurvedic chef: See below*
And did I mention easy? Let chocolatier Alexandra Whisnant show you how easy it can be to temper. In all honesty, the clean-up took more time than the making. Now I know that is not an incentive – less prep, more clean-up – but you’re going to have clean-up any time you make or bake, right? With this, it’s one chocolate bowl, which the children might like to help you clean, the spoons, which can get messy, and the counters. So even that is sweet and easy!
Good quality chocolate, baking wafers or 60-70% bars
Toppings: Dried fruit, nuts, seeds, pomegranate, orange peel, rose petals
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Pour water into a large pot until about two-thirds full. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a bowl the size that will fit snuggly in the pot, add 2/3’s of the chocolate. Break the chocolate into pieces if it started as a bar.
Turn off the heat under the pot. Place the bowl of chocolate over the steaming water. Do not stir. While the chocolate melts, prepare your toppings. Chop the fruit into small bits. Toast the nuts and seeds. Grate the orange. Pull the nibs from the pomegranate and set on a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Put all this close to your baking sheet.
Now, stir the chocolate. Test it by touching a bit to your lower lip. It should be very hot, but not burning. If it’s not, leave it longer on the water. If it is hot, remove from the pot, place on a folded kitchen towel (to absorb the water) and stir in the remaining chocolate.
With a large spoon, scoop the chocolate and drip onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet. The drip will form a disk. You can help it along by very lightly touching the center of the chocolate with the back of the spoon and circling. This will help evenly thin the disk, and give it a lovely whirl. Continue making the disks until the bowl is empty. Gently add your toppings. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
While they are best within 24-36 hours, I’ve saved these uncovered in the refrigerator for up to five days and they were still gorgeous and fresh.