Friday, 20 December 2013
Mendiants variation on a theme of Florentines
This week I wanted to make a batch of Florentines for Christmas.Not only would they be a luxurious Christmas treat for our guests but It would introduce an Italian element into my global Christmas blog scenario.Having made Florentines for years I thought I would try throwing something different into the mix - rolled oats.I tapped “oat Florentines” into google and what happened next was like setting out to write a book about biscuits and the research of one particular biscuit showing up way more results, far outweighing all the other biscuits on the list and sidetracking you into writing a completely different book.Well I guess thats the way the cookie crumbles and before long I was diverted from what was going to be an array of Italian Florentines to becoming a tray of no cook, no bother French fancies.-mendiants.
A mendiant is a traditional French confection very closely resembling the florentine but composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits representing the four mendicant or monastic orders of the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Carmelites.
I started loving this,it was right up my rua and related to my interest in Portuguese Doces Conventuais.
Traditionally, each of the nuts and dried fruits used refers to the colour of the particular monastic robes of that order with tradition dictating raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnut for the Augustines, dried fig for Franciscans and almond for Carmelite.So when you are savouring these treats think Dominic,Augustine, Francis or Carmel. Well how dull these monastic robes must have been.I can see them now - beige, greige, taupe and grunge.I needed some colour in my cookies and further research showed that recipes for mendiants have veered away from the traditional combination of just nuts to fruits and other combinations, incorporating seeds, fruit peels and other items.
I have not had so much fun in a long time.I played with colour contrasts and taste combinations.You can take this in any direction you want it.The green of pistachio with sugar violets and roses juxtaposed with the radiance of a soft dried apricot.Once reserved for Moroccan royalty and their guests, I paired Medjool dates with crystallized ginger and pistachios.I even sprinkled the chocolate with various infusions of Flor de sal,chilli, lemon and vanilla.You can play with these to your hearts content and they are as easy as pie,probably the hardest part is tempering the chocolate.If you are short on last minute presents these are great.
Just like myself heat causes chocolate to lose it’s temper. When you buy chocolate for baking, it should arrive well-tempered. But once you chop it up and melt it,chocolate loses its temper, and you’ll need to re-temper it again if you plan to use it as a coating.Its entirely up to you, if you want to keep your temper do it, if you want to lose it no probs.
Melt the chocolate "au bain-marie" : put a small saucepan of hot water over low heat, set a bowl over it with the chocolate cut in pieces, and wait until it melts, stirring with a spoon. This melting method is kinder to the chocolate than the microwave, and you want to be kind to your chocolate,not lose your temper.
Lay a silicone mat on a flat and cold surface and take the bowl of chocolate off the heat. Drop small spoonfuls of chocolate onto the sheet, using the back of the spoon to make little circles. Set two to three topping elements on the circle,gently pressing them into the chocolate . Work a few mendiants at a time, depositing six circles of chocolate, then decorating them, before making three new circles.
Try to create nice contrasting effects with the color and texture and taste of the toppings. No need to hurry, the chocolate should stay melted enough for you to work calmly. But if it gets too hard to work with, put it back over low heat to melt again.
When a batch is complete, put the sheet in a cool place for the chocolate to harden. Wait until the chocolate is completely set before lifting the mendiants cautiously from the sheet.