I am Dr. Chocolate. In 2008, I earned a PhD from the University of Washington by studying chocolate. Now, I am on the hunt for the best chocolate in the world.

Monday, April 2, 2012

First attempt at mendiants, partial success

I have had it in my plans for some time now to make a batch of homemade mendiants, to give away to my friends and thus increase their earthly joy.

First, I commissioned the vessels. My friend Ken made them by hand from single pieces of scrap wood.

Then, I decided which friends would get chocolates. Obviously Kerry now knows that she is among the fortunate.

I stopped in Lake Forest Park on my way home from teaching in Bothell one afternoon, and picked up decorations from my friend Bill Fredericks, the Chocolate Man.

Mendiants (French for "beggar") have pretty little bits of edible decor on them. I got white chocolate curls, cocoa nibs, Crispearls (by Callebaut), crumbled biscuit flakes, and Himalayan pink salt. Also dried cranberries and mango, which I thought would add nice color. Then I chose the chocolate.

I used some of my supply of Fortunato #4, the lost chocolate of Peru, sourced by my friend Dan Pearson at Maranon Chocolate. It's a 68%, delicately flavored, fragile dark.

Many weeks passed. First I was going to make Valentine's chocolates, but then I had to move into a new apartment. Then I thought I would make vernal equinox chocolates, but I had to unpack all my boxes in the new apartment. Over the weekend I suddenly realized that I had two waking hours not sailing/running/climbing/diving/teaching/bus-riding/writing, and I thought, aha! It's time to make the chocolates.

It was my first attempt outside the Callebaut Chocolate Academy to make such marvels, unaided. I tempered the chocolate, using Callebaut's revolutionary crystallized cocoa butter, Mycryo (awkward word for what is actually an attractive, handy product), so that my mendiants would be nice and shiny. I did my parchment test - et voila, it set nicely! Then I filled a piping bag with the tempered chocolate and began piping out my circles.

The first few came out looking almost like mendiants.

They were nearly circular, and the decorations vaguely representative of the artful designs I had imagined for my creations.

Then I began to realize that making mendiants at the Callebaut Academy, where I had expensive warming pans (to keep the tempered chocolate in temper), all necessary supplies, and a partner to help if need be, resulted in somewhat more attractive formations than those I could achieve by myself in my railroad-style kitchen with almost no professional gear. My mendiants became increasingly blob-like and misshapen.

I also recalled at this point that mendiants set extremely quickly, so piping even half a dozen in a row meant that the first ones were already starting to get solid by the time I got around to decorating them, so my pretty little bits starting rolling right off. Realizing this, I tried to smash handfuls of decor onto those that were setting most quickly.

Also, the tip of the piping bag became increasingly blocked with chocolate, which was thickening apace.

Desperate, I piped the remaining, setting chocolate out of the bag onto the parchment paper, never mind that it looked like brown toothpaste. I even decorated the alien-like blobs.

In the end, I've had to layer the moderately attractive chocolates on top of the hideous ones, but at least the handmade bowls are full. And they taste nice too (the chocolates, not the bowls).

Check in again on Wednesday, April 4, when I'll be conversing about chocolate on the Halli Casser Jayne show, 3-4pm ET.