For Chocolate Lovers Only: Mendiants
Tips: Simple, minimalist, very French confections, their name translates to “beggars”, of all things. These are easy to make, but they take a little time. Melted chocolate is spread into small rounds, then garnished with a nut and a piece or two of dried fruit. These look especially pretty if presented in two or more types of chocolate (for instance, dark and white, or dark and milk). Best of all, perhaps, the mendiants can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for at least a week.
Make sure you use dried fruits that are soft and pliable, and, of course, as there are so few ingredients, the chocolate you use must be of top quality. Although these are stored in the fridge, they should be brought to room temperature before serving. Dried fruits I’ve used to make these include papaya, blueberries, cranberries, red tart cherries, apricots, and golden raisins; I’d think crystallized ginger would also be a good choice. Nuts can be toasted or raw, as you prefer---but if you toast them, make certain they’re cooled completely before you use them. One final note: as I write this, I’ve just returned from Europe. In France, I saw mendiants decorated with nuts and dried fruits in a minimalist fashion, yes, but there were others with more than a few pieces of fruits and nuts on top. If you’d like more “decoration” atop your mendiants, feel free to improvise.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, shiny side up (or use parchment paper). Set aside.
Place finely chopped chocolate in small microwaveable bowl. Microwave at 50% (medium) power for 30 seconds. Stir well. Microwave at 50% (medium) power for further very short intervals, stirring well after each, just until chocolate is melted and smooth.
Use a scant teaspoon (not a measuring teaspoon) of melted chocolate for each mendiant. Drop the chocolate onto the foil-lined baking sheet, then spread it out to make a circle about 2 inches in diameter (this measurement needn’t be exact). Make 3 or 4 circles, then garnish each in a minimal fashion, with perhaps a nut and one or two small pieces of dried fruit (pecan halves, pine nuts, cashews, and whole almonds can be used as is; walnut halves are too large and only half a half should be used per circle. For the fruits, dried blueberries and cranberries can be used whole. Halve dried cherries, using only one half per circle; use modest chunks of dried apricots, papaya, pineapple, etc. Push garnishes slightly into the chocolate. Continue making circles and garnishing them until the chocolate has been used up.
Refrigerate the mendiants for about 20 minutes to set them. To store, I prefer an airtight plastic container, lined with plastic wrap. Using a tissue or paper towel to protect the mendiants from your fingers, gently peel each one from the foil and place in the storage container. I like to use a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper between each layer of mendiants. Store airtight in the refrigerator. To serve, arrange as many mendiants as you’ll need on a serving plate. Cover lightly with plastic wrap; allow to stand at cool room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
12 to 14 mendiants
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