How could I let this week fly past without mentioning chocolate for Easter? Or mentioning our flaring allergies with all this beautiful, budding but nose-blowing Parisian Spring blossoms? Or discovering seven (you heard me) paper fishes with cute French messages for poisson d’avril cellotaped to my back on April Fools’ Day?
It’s funny. After all the macaron-athons, I took a break from them for a couple of weeks. Then last weekend, Antoine asked for a macaron or two at 4 o’clock goûter. What? Quoi? You mean, you don’t even have any left in your freezer bank? What’s going on?
With macaron twinges from all of us, it was time to make a batch. The family begged for chocolate; good ol’ plain chocolate macarons – even if it was tempting to add fancy salt, spices, caramel, herbs or fruit and the likes (if you’re a regular you may remember last year I made chocolate bacon macarons for April Fools’ Day.) I did it, though; I kept them plain – but thought about doing something a bit different to decorate them: I added mendiants.
Mendiant means ‘beggar’ in French. As the family were begging for more chocolate macarons, this was fitting inspiration indeed – as well as the high prices in the chocolateries for these little chocolate fruit and nut bites.
Mendiants are simply disks of chocolate with at least four kinds of dried fruit and nuts, representing the robe colours of four mendicant monastic orders from the Middle Ages. Fascinating, n’est-ce pas?
Here I used dark chocolate and beautifully bumpy praline chocolate, but mendiants can be made with plain, milk or white chocolate. Use different nuts (plain or toasted) and dried fruits to add a contrast in textures and flavours. I also added broken Mikado sticks (do you have these in America?) and homemade zig-zag sticks (just by melting chocolate and zig-zagging it on baking paper, then peeling off when set) for a nest and mini Easter eggs.
Let your imagination leave your Easter Bunnies begging for more!
French Chocolate Mendiants
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Setting Time: 30 minutes
200g dark chocolate (64% cocoa solids, minimum)
Candied orange peel, cut into cubes
Raisins or dried cranberries*
Hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, almonds or pine nuts (plain or toasted)
- Line a perfectly flat baking sheet with baking paper (or silicone mat).
- Break up the chocolate in a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water over a gentle heat (bain-marie) until the chocolate has melted.
- Using a dessertspoon, spoon the melted chocolate onto the baking paper, pressing each one down with the back of the spoon to make a circle.
- Gradually decorate with the fruit and nuts using different colours and textures for toppings. Don’t worry about the chocolate hardening; you will have enough time to enjoy dressing each disk before it hardens.
- Leave to cool for about 30 minutes. When set, remove each mendiant carefully from the sheet with your fingers or a palette knife.
* To knock them into Adult mode for that extra je ne sais quoi, soak them in Kirsch, Chambord, Armagnac, Frangelico or any of your favourite liqueurs.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days (if you can wait that long!)
Here I topped chocolate macarons with French mendiants for an Easter bonnet look. You could do the same by decorating cupcakes, brownies, muffins, chocolate mousse, etc. with your own personal mendiant touch, or just devour them on their own. Mendiants are great for serving as mini bites or mignardises with coffee after dinner.
Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques !