Literally this means beggar. What a strange name for a chocolate treat!
Mendiants are very thin chocolate discs with dry fruit or nuts (raisins, almonds, walnuts or pistachios). These chocolates have been served for a very long time in France. They are even part of the 13 desserts traditionally served for Christmas in the southern region of Provence. They are actually linked to the Christian religion in some respects.
The name given to mendiant chocolates refers to its use of dried fruit. According to my sources there are several links between beggars, religion and dried fruit.
To begin with, among the 13 dishes shared by Jesus and his 12 apostles for the last supper (the “Ceme”), there were dried fruits (figs, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, white and brown sultanas). Then, in the 16th century, some men of the cloth took a vow of poverty and lived on the charity of others. The color worn by different catholic orders was a reference to the color of a particular dried fruit they received as beggars (mendiants): gray like dried figs for the Franciscans, white like skinned almonds for the Dominicans, purple like grapes for the Augustins and brown like hazelnuts for the Carns. The fruits used for the mendicant chocolates were chosen to represent the color of the clothes of the four mendicant orders.
Mendiant chocolates are sold all year long and are now must-haves for any chocolatier, but they are traditional and typical Christmas delicacies.
Quite funny to think that these delicious chocolates you are eating are supposed to represent poverty, isn’t it?
Preparation time: 20 minutes, 30 min cooling down
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Quantity: about 35, according to the size
Specific equipment: food thermometer (if you use the technique of chocolate tempering / melting and hardening process)
200 gr dark chocolate (7 oz, ±1/2 pound)
3 to 4 kinds of dried fruits, nuts or candied fruits, possibly including: raisins, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachio, fig, candied lemon or orange peels. 35 of each
First prepare the toppings: make sure you have 35 to 40 piece of each (cut into smaller if needed for candied citrus peel or nuts for example).
Melt the chocolate by using the tempering technique. The main steps are as follows: in a double boiler heat the chocolate up to 122/131°F (50/55°C). Then let the chocolate cool to 79/80°F (26/28°C) and heat again to 88/89°F (31/32°C). Using the tempering technique ensure you to obtain shiny chocolate discs. But if you don’t have time to do so or if you don’t have any food thermometer at home, never mind. The only risk is of overheating the chocolate and that the chocolate disc will have a matte aspect.
Place greaseproof paper or aluminum foil on a tray. Form small discs (about 1 inch in diameter) by using a piping bag or a spoon. I think a spoon is easier and helps to measure a constant quantity (about a tablespoon for each mendiant). On top of this the back of the spoon can be used to flatten out the chocolate discs a little.
Immediatly after this, arrange 3 to 4 pieces of fruit and nut on each disc.
Leave in a cool room for at least 30 minutes so that the chocolate can cool down and set the fruits and nuts.